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Who was Mama Goose?

from The Verona Press
8/23/2009 6:00:00 AM

Margaret “Peggy” Giesfeldt was known as Mama Goose.

5K race celebrates life of 'Mama Goose' 
By: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Group reporter

Margaret “Peggy” Giesfeldt was known as Mama Goose.

Before she died in January, Margaret Giesfeldt told her family she didn't want an ordinary funeral.

"She wanted a party," said her husband, Mark Giesfeldt. "She wanted it to be a celebration of life."

That was typical of "Peggy," who worked nearly a decade in Verona schools as a secretary before she was diagnosed in 2001 with sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

Her son, Matthew Giesfeldt, 25, said his mom was a passionate supporter of Verona Area High School athletics, particularly the cross-country and baseball teams that he and his brother, Joseph, 20, were on. 

"She'd do anything she could to help out," he said. "She was just unconditionally supportive at all times."

Matthew, a 2002 VAHS graduate who's now an assistant coach for the high school's cross country team, said when he was in high school, his peers tagged him and his brother with the nickname "Goose," a play on their last name. As a result, their mom - a fixture in the stands and a steady volunteer for local sports - was dubbed "Mama Goose."

On Aug. 29, Matthew will honor his mom with the inaugural Mama Goose Memorial Run/Walk, a 5K tribute to her spirit that doubles as a fund-raiser for the UW Carbone Cancer Center in Madison, where she received much of her treatment during a seven-and-a-half year battle with sarcoma.

Mark Giesfeldt said his wife's first surgery occurred Sept. 11, 2001, and that over the subsequent years, she had six more major surgeries plus countless sessions of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She died Jan. 12 at UW Hospital at the age of 52.

"One of the doctors said she was the longest-surviving sarcoma patient in the world," Mark said.

Mark Giesfeldt said he and Peggy lived in Verona for about a decade and in Fitchburg for about 13 years before that. Peggy's life - and death - was an inspiration to others, said Matthew, who will teach fifth grade in Dodgeville starting this fall.

"Her zest for living was unmatched," he said.

Though the family held a funeral at St. Andrew Catholic Church last winter - an estimated 500 people attended - Mark said Peggy preferred a party instead of a typical "funeral home visitation" afterward. 

So, after the Aug. 29 race, the family will do just that. A party is set for 1 to 5 p.m. at the Fitchburg farm of Bill Conzemius, who was principal of Stoner Prairie Elementary School when Margaret was a secretary there.

"It's open to any and all friends and family, anyone who knew her and loved her," Mark said.

And Matthew said the same goes for the Aug. 29 race.

"We hope it gives people in the Verona community who knew her and would like to do something a chance to show how much they cared about her," he said.