UD Love Stories 2019: Gary and Elizabeth Peckham
Feb 14, 2019
It was a sunny afternoon during Freshman Orientation in fall 1968 when Gary Peckham (C'71) first laid eyes on Elizabeth Loats (C'72). She was one of many freshman girls who were wearing a beanie and walking from Peters Commons to Aitchison Hall.
"I was sitting with some of my friends on the PC patio as the girls walked by, and then I pointed to Elizabeth and said, 'I like that one right there,'" Gary recalled.
Elizabeth added, "He had his eye on me, but I had my eye on someone else."
Little did they know at the time, they would end up joining a long line of family members who met their spouse at the University of Dubuque.
Gary, a sophomore studying business administration, was a member of the Phi-O Fraternity and played basketball for Coach Jon Davison, a man who was like a father to him. Elizabeth, a freshman studying elementary education, was a cheerleader for the basketball team and secretary to Coach Waugh. She would later serve two years as a resident assistant.
Gary and Elizabeth's first date was the Greek Presentation Ball, where the new pledges were presented to the rest of fraternities and sororities. The pair continued to date through spring 1969, but when the school year came to a close, they went their separate ways. Gary returned home to Richland Center, Wisconsin, and Elizabeth went back home to Princeton, New Jersey. The following fall, the pair returned to campus early and went on a few dates. But it wasn't meant to be at the time, and they decided to date other people.
Nearly a year later, during summer 1970, Elizabeth was in summer school on campus and the resident assistant in Aitchison Hall when she realized Gary's birthday was coming up. She decided to send him a card - a card that wished him a happy birthday and mentioned giving her a call. It was now up to Gary to decide if he was ready for a relationship. The card surprised Gary, so of course he had to talk to Elizabeth. The two reconnected and decided it was time to go on another date. As luck would have it, Gary had planned on returning to UD to play a pick-up basketball game with some of his friends and asked Elizabeth if she would want to have dinner while he was in town. She happily accepted, and the pair have been together ever since.
Gary knew that they would be together forever. In fact, he would make comments saying, "When we get married," which took Elizabeth by surprise. On Halloween 1971, Gary made it official and gave Elizabeth a ring.
After graduating in May 1971, Gary went to Richland Center to work at his family's creamery business. Worried about being drafted, he signed up for the Army and began Basic Training May 1, 1972, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Graduating in December 1971, Elizabeth returned to New Jersey to plan a wedding and substitute teach. Gary and Elizabeth were married on July 8, 1972, at Nativity Church in Dubuque - two days after Gary returned from Basic Training. The ceremony was at 7:00 p.m. followed by a cake and punch reception at Elizabeth's aunt and uncle's home in Dubuque. The couple were blessed to be surrounded by so many UD friends and family on their special day. Their entire wedding party were fellow UD Spartans, and, of course, Coach Davison was there.
The next day, instead of leaving for a honeymoon, the newlyweds left for Fort Benning, Georgia, where Gary would begin Officer Candidate School. In January 1973 Gary became 2nd Lieutenant Peckham ending his service time at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on April 1, 1975. Because the couple moved every three to six months, Elizabeth served as a substitute teacher on the various military bases where they lived. Their oldest child was born in 1975, just six weeks before Gary left the Army.
The young family returned to Richland Center, where Gary began working at the family creamery again. Their family continued to grow with the birth of Carolyn in 1977, Abigail in 1981, and Andrew in 1983. Elizabeth focused on raising the children, and eventually she began substitute teaching again. In 1998, the couple purchased the family business and ran it until they sold it in 2016.
These days the Peckhams are retired but stay busy with
their eight grandchildren, ages 2 to 18, babysitting and
watching them in their various extracurricular activities. In her free time, Elizabeth is fond of knitting, sewing, and quilting. Gary enjoys going to the driving range with Coach Davison.
Gary and Elizabeth also enjoy traveling. Gary and several UD friends and their spouses travel to Florida every February for a reunion with Coach Davison. This year marked nine years for the group to get together. The couple also takes an annual family fishing trip to Canada every June and love to travel internationally. They have been to Italy, Ireland, and Germany.
Gary and Elizabeth are looking forward to traveling to Europe again in October 2019 for a Cooking Tour around Italy. They also will travel to South America for the first time with a trip to Peru in August for a week at Casa Hogar, an orphanage sponsored by Diocese of La Crosse.
Everyone in Gary and Elizabeth's wedding party were friends from UD!
Pictured left to right: Margaret "Peggy" Molt, Sara (Wunderlich) Schaefbauer (C'77), Sue Goodale (ex'72), Elizabeth (Loats) Peckham (C'72), Gary Peckham (C'71), Alfred "Fred" Teichert (C'70), Jan Brockmeyer (C'72), Howard "Howie" Molt (C'73)