Archie Peck, Final Thoughts

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 12:16 AM

I was sorry not to be able to return this summer to the wonderful Meadow Club Invitational in Southampton. It will mark the first summer that Archie Peck has not been the Tournament Director. He was a fixture at this storied event, and would not have missed it for the world. The TD torch has been passed to Danny Huneycutt (-3.5). The tournament ended this past Saturday, August 4th, with the winner's trophy going to Mike Gibbons (-1.5) from Palm Beach and 2nd place to Dick Sullivan (-1.5) from Louisville, Kentucky.  

It must have been in the early Spring of 2011 when I and others noticed that Archie was getting unusually thin and had even developed a slight slur in his speech. When asked, Archie indicated that his last blood test was good and his recurring skin-cancer spots had been successfully zapped. He seemed unconcerned. Clearly, he was in denial. This had gone on for months. 

Finally, late one Saturday afternoon on the court at the St. Andrews Club, just north of Delray Beach, his good friend, Dr. Michael Carmichael, read Archie the riot act, so to speak, and insisted that he come in for tests to ascertain what exactly was going on. Archie agreed. Thus began the long ordeal which ended on May 16th of this year.

Archie had a long, checkered career. I was around for the last ten years. I remember him as he was last Summer, during the 2011 Meadow Club Invitational. Those in attendance will recall he was way too thin, indicating to any casual observer that something was not right. (He had already undergone some chemo.) And yet, you could not be completely certain, because Archie still had that smile and his larger-than-life attitude, which indicated that everything was going to be fine, the way it had always been for him and for all of us lucky enough to play a part in croquet's inner circle.

In my report on the tournament for the July/August 2011 issue of The Croquet Calendar I wrote in part:

"Tournament Director Archie Peck, dubbed 'The Emperor' by John Osborn, was at his post Monday morning on Court #1 of the Meadow Club, appearing as if by magic from his HQ at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach. Archie had driven up in his outsized Honda van, with all the heavy equipment required to make this event happen, including one of my favorite Hobbs mallets and a bucket of sand from the NCC. Archie and Ted Quimby, the latter from beautiful, nearby Bridgehampton, were busy at work setting up the courts, all eight of them...."

Despite his illness, Archie was there bright and early every morning, and remained throughout the day until sunset, doing his job like he had always done at 110%, keeping the tournament running like clockwork, adjusting the wickets and lines, and helping everyone who needed help, which was most of us.

On my way to a social event, I would run into him, leaving the courts at twilight, the last man standing. No complaints, no regrets, and no nonsense. Just plenty of good play, laughs and sportsmanship. Archie was in his element, and he relished it. He departed the Meadow Club the final time that Saturday. As I wrote in the same article for The Croquet Calendar:

"TD Archie Peck left the building immediately after the awards luncheon on Saturday. Archie loves the road and he had to get back to the NCC with all that equipment. The weather was gorgeous in Southampton. The flowers in the Meadow Club garden by the back terrace were in full bloom. Another fine day in paradise. I took a parting photograph. 'See you back on campus!' I shouted to him as he exited. Archie waived without comment, and was out of there in a flash."

Later, in January 2012 I would write my last entry for The Calendar. The editor of that specialized, arcane publication--Garth Eliassen--had telephoned me from out of the blue, saying he was calling it quits, closing up shop and that this would be the final issue. He had caught me off guard, and I told him so. And yet the timing turned out to be both appropriate and portentous. 

That very day, Monday, January 9th, was when Archie finally went under the knife for tongue cancer, after months of chemo and radiation therapy. I wrote at the time, "Whatever happens now, this marks the passing of an era." Archie died four months and one week later, on May 16th, after spending two days at a hospice in West Palm Beach. To the end, he did it his way, and left us that great smile with all those good memories. This bequest is priceless. 

See you on the courts. Time in! The clock is running.

--Copyright 2012 Patrick Foy--