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Sports Pioneer Peg Grey Dies

This article shared 8374 times since Wed Feb 28, 2007
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#1 Peg Grey at Gay Games VII in Chicago, photo by Bonnie Tunick. #2 Peg Grey with friend Russell Myers. #3 Grey was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992, pictured here with Mayor Daley, photo by Tracy Baim. . #4 Grey was always involved in both individual and team sportand is pictured with her team (seated front, third from left) and others playing in the women's indoor volleyball last summer at Gay Games VII, photo by Bonnie Tunick. #5 1984 Lost & Found MSA softball team pic, including (kneeling, second from left) Tracy Baim, Grace Luedke and Peg Grey. #6 Actor Wilson Cruz with Grey at the 2005 Proud to Run, where she was recognized for her founding of the event, photo by Tracy Baim. #7 Dorothy Tanner and Peg Grey with Sydney 2002 Gay Games medals. #8 Grey in Sydney.



Peg Grey, one of the most important and pioneering activists in Chicago's GLBT community, died Feb. 24 of complications from cancer. She was 61.

Grey's passion was sports, and through sports she helped unite the gay male and lesbian communities, raised funds for AIDS and other causes, and worked internationally to build bridges in the GLBT community across racial and economic lines. Her sports work led her to become the first female co-chair of the Federation of Gay Games ( FGG ) , which was officially formed after Gay Games II. Grey participated in every Gay Games since 1986, including last summer in Chicago, and she ran in the torch run for the first Gay Games, in San Francisco in 1982.

As a Chicago teacher, Grey also worked helping to organize GLBT educators.

Last Saturday, when Gay Games VII was honored at the Lesbian Community Cancer Project gala, I was honored to accept the award in honor of Grey for her sports work. The event raised funds in the fight against cancer, and Grey herself succumbed to cancer that same day. Long-time Chicago activist Vernita Gray also spoke of Peg Grey's contributions, remembering that in the 1970s, many people did not understand why sports activism could make a difference in the community.

I first met Peg Grey in 1984, having just returned from college to a burgeoning gay community. A small-framed, energetic, driven woman, Grey organized and played on sports teams year-round, attracting players of all skill levels to her teams, often sponsored by Lost & Found, the city's oldest women's bar. My first experience in GLBT sports in Chicago came at age 21, playing for one of her L&F softball teams; we were all pushed to be the best at both sports and in the larger community. Grey was an inspiration, a strong lesbian working to raise up women but to also play sports alongside men.

Inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992, Grey's decades-long work in Chicago's community began in the 1970s. She saw that most of the gay sports leagues at the time were dominated by men, so she pushed for more inclusion of lesbians. She helped create women's leagues in the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( previously known as Gay Athletic Association and then Metropolitan Sports Association ) for basketball, softball, tennis and volleyball in 1983, bowling in 1985, racquetball in 1987, and football in 1988. She also helped form the Women's Sports Association, and published the newsletter Women Together in Sports.

She served as a board member of MSA from 1981 to 1991, helped in the creation of the Chicago Pride Week Invitational Bowling Tournament, and in 1989 returned to FGG as a board member. In 2006, FGG made her an honorary lifetime member.

One of Grey's most long-lasting accomplishments was helping to create The Race Against AIDS ( Proud to Run ) , an annual event held during Pride Week. She was honored for her work in starting the event, which led to the creation in 1982 of the Chicago chapter of Frontrunners, established by Grey, Rob Williams, and Jim White. Grey brought t-shirts from all 25 Proud to Run events and hung them up for all to see at the 25th anniversary run last year.

Grey founded Team Chicago Arts and Athletics in 1983, which became Team Chicago; she and Dick Uyvari were the first co-chairs of Team Chicago in 1985, prior to Gay Games II, and they helped get athletes to the international event. Grey competed in marathon, softball, track and field, and volleyball over the course of past Gay Games. Grey was one of Team Chicago's delegates to the FGG since 2000 and at the 2001 Annual Meeting spearheaded the movement to raise funds for the Rainbow Warriors, a Namibian lesbian soccer team. She stepped down as delegate in 2006 when her medical condition worsened.

'As a delegate Peg participated actively on the Federation's Outreach Committee and Women's Outreach Subcommittee, as well as the Sports Committee,' said Paul Oostenbrug, Team Chicago's co-chair. 'She pushed the Federation to establish an Outreach Mission at its Annual Meeting in Cologne Germany in 2004. 'The Federation of Gay Games' Outreach Mission is to distribute information and provide scholarship assistance that will bring participants to each Gay Games; along with these efforts, the FGG will encourage continued development of the international gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender sports and cultural community.''

At the 2001 FGG meeting in Johannesburg ( where Chicago was bidding to host the 2006 Gay Games ) , Grey met Castakes Anton of the Rainbow Warriors Soccer Club, a lesbian sports organization of 150 members from Windhoek, Namibia. Grey listened to Anton's stories about the abuse that her team experienced and its fear of being openly lesbian—due to the potential for arrest. Its members were not able to play safely in Windhoek because of homophobia. As Grey later said, a vision and then a plan of action began to take form. She convinced the women and men at the meeting to raise funds to allow some of the Rainbow Warriors' members to contribute to what she named the First Inter-African Soccer Tournament. The tournament would be held in the relative safety of the Johannesburg/Soweto area and would host local teams, a team from Namibia, and be open to any other country that could field a team. Funds were raised at that meeting and Grey asked Team Chicago to establish a Sister City Program with Windhoek, which paid for the Rainbow Warriors to travel to Soweto to play against two lesbian teams—their first experience as 'out' athletes. She encouraged Chicago Games, Inc. to contribute to this program, which it did as an equal sponsor. The funds that were raised allowed 15 team members to travel from Windhoek to Johannesburg for a tournament.

Another passion for Grey was work on inclusion for senior athletes, and she was instrumental in making sure Gay Games VII in Chicago had senior divisions in several sports. 'Because of her efforts, 20 of the 32 sports at the 2006 Games had specific age categories and there were new age categories in several team sports,' Oostenbrug said. 'In addition, she worked with Chicago Games, Inc. to publicize a number of low-impact sports that are suitable for the less active—sailing, pool/billiards, and darts.'

Grey's own 50+ volleyball team, the Golden Girls, won a bronze medal in the Women's B division at Gay Games VII and received a special sportsmanship award from all of the volleyball teams. Peg organized four 55+ Team Chicago runners, who won a gold medal in the mixed medley relay. Grey awarded the gold medal to the Chicago Classics women's basketball team for their victory in the Women's 50+ Masters division which she helped create.

According to Dick Uyvari, Peg, Sam Molinaro, and Art Johnston were already on the board of the Gay Athletic Association when he joined the organization in 1980. Dick, Peg, and Sam played on a 16-inch softball team in the spring of 1981 (Art was their non-playing manager) and on a volleyball team when GAA established a volleyball league later in 1981. Because the acronym GAA was also used by the Girl's Athletic Association, the group changed its name to the Metropolitan Sports Association (MSA) in the early 1990s, adding the city's name in the early 1990s. Peg has been nominated as a charter member of CMSA's Hall of Fame which will hold its first induction ceremony on March 31, 2007. Dick stated that Peg's motivation in GAA/MSA/CMSA was to run high quality sport leagues/competitions for the LGBT community and to bring men and women together in the running of the organization and on teams.

Grey was born May 15, 1945, in Chicago. She received her BS in Elementary Education from Chicago Teachers College, and an MA in Physical Education from Northern Illinois University. She worked for 35 years in the Chicago Public Schools in elementary physical education. Grey had endured multiple myeloma ( a cancer that begins in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell ) for many years. Last week, she had a stem cell harvesting procedure performed, which left her very tired, according to her long-time partner Grace Luedke. On Friday night, Grey had difficulty breathing and was taken to Hinsdale Hospital. She died there early Saturday.

'I am proud to have been blessed with Peg as my beloved partner for these past 40 years. She will always be with me,' Luedke said.

There will be a visitation/memorial drop-in service this Saturday, March 3, 2-7 p.m., at Gibbon's/Elliston Funeral Home, 60 S. Grant St. in Hinsdale, Ill. Sunday April 1st (Palm Sunday). A community service will be held at Sunday, April 1, 3pm, at Unity In Chicago, 1925 W. Thome Ave.The church is located between Peterson and Devon Ave ,1/2 block west of Ridge in Chicago. This service will include an open mic session for memories and stories of Peg. Additionally, Team Chicago has set up a page on the web site where you can post memories of Peg:

In addition to many friends and teammates, her survivors include partner Grace Luedke, brother Larry Grey, and sister Judith Byron.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Team Chicago or a planned scholarship program in Peg Grey's name. Checks should be made out to Team Chicago or the Federation of Gay Games and can be mailed to Team Chicago, PO Box 13470, Chicago, IL 60613. Funds raised for the Peg Grey Memorial Scholarship Program would be restricted to funding women athletes from the continent of Africa attending the Gay Games or other international tournaments.

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