Samuel Peabody, R.I.P.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The sky cried today and it was hard to imagine that it wasn’t for Samuel Parkman Peabody, whose funeral was held this afternoon before an almost full house at St. James Episcopal Church on Madison Avenue. Peabody (1925-2017) had died ten days earlier at 92 after a long illness. He and his wife Judy, who died in 2010, had been shining beacons, illuminating the very best of New York society, for decades.

Speakers at the funeral recalled “the quintessential gentleman,” his love, generosity, kindness, courage, integrity, humility, and impeccable style, but most of all, his fundamental decency, which was mentioned repeatedly. “Beautiful people don’t just happen,” said Gail Nayowith, in a tender reflection. His nephew Bob Peabody joked that while “we certainly didn’t have barbeques on the rooftop” of his and Judy’s home at 990 Fifth Avenue, “he taught me how to dress; he looked great all the time–even exercising. He also taught us how to love.”

Courageous moments in Peabody’s life were also singled out, beginning with his service in combat with the U.S Army in World War II, passing through his and his wife’s dedication to caring for AIDS patients when the disease was new and its victims were anathema, and ending with a more recent test of his capacity for friendship and loyalty and demonstration of that fundamental decency and integrity. “He stood by his good friend Tony Marshall,” Bob Peabody recalled proudly, when Brooke Astor’s son was tried on charges of swindling his mother, sitting behind Marshall in court most every day of the trial that ended in Marshall’s conviction. “His good deeds were legion.”

Born in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, Sam was also predeceased by sister Marietta Tree, his brother Endicott “Chub” Peabody and his brother George Peabody. He is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Peabody, his brother Malcolm Peabody Jr., who also spoke, and many nieces and nephews, many of whom served as ushers and pall bearers. A graduate of Brooks School and Harvard in 1950, Sam then studied at Teachers College at Columbia University, and went on to teach at the St Bernard’s School in New York and The Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York, where he was Head of the Middle School. A lifelong advocate for children and families, he served on on the boards of Reality House, Antioch University, the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, Broad Jump, and Prep for Prep. He was also on the Vestry of St. James Church.

“We are all of us the planets that surrounded Sam’s sun,” the Rev. Brenda G. Husson, Rector of St. James, said at the conclusion of the service. “Rest in peace–you earned it.”

Donations honoring Samuel Peabody’s memory can be made to Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, 14 Wall Street, Suite 4E, NY NY 10005 and St James Church, 865 Madison Avenue, NY NY 10021 Att: The Rector/ In Memory of Samuel P. Peabody.


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