Section: Features

Friday Cafe to return in honor of Margaret “Peggy” Turgeon

Friday Cafe to return in honor of Margaret “Peggy” Turgeon

Peggy Turgeon and her grandson. | COURTESY OF CHARLIE TURGEON ’23

For nearly 40 years, community patrons gathered weekly in the Harcourt Parish House to indulge in a social and tasty tradition. The Friday Cafe was a vibrant scene that brought spirited Knox County residents and visitors together to enjoy good food and company. The founders of the French-style cafe, Margaret “Peggy” Turgeon and Joyce Klein, were beloved on campus, much like the institution that they created. The last of the regular weekly cafes took place in 2018.

Another Friday Cafe and fundraiser for the Parish House will take place on Friday to celebrate the life of Turgeon, who died on May 17, 2022. She was 79 and had lived in Gambier for almost 50 years, during which she worked as a case manager at Moundbuilders Guidance Center in Mount Vernon. Turgeon’s care for the Knox County community extended onto campus, where she was able to direct her passion for cooking into catering for the College alongside her close friend, Klein.

In a 2001 interview with the College, Turgeon said that she and Klein originally started a dessert cafe in Farr Hall during the late 1970s as a way to raise money for the Kenyon Student Scholarship Fund. This inspired the idea of a cafe business. “Joyce and I were also interested in cooking for the community and providing a kind of nice quiet place to have lunch,” she said. “It certainly isn’t that now, but … that was our thought. It was an opportunity for townspeople and college students to get together.”

Turgeon was an excellent cook in the Village, providing and serving food for events ranging from small receptions to large dinner gatherings. At the Friday Cafe, community members could gather for something slightly different from their typical meal at Peirce Dining Hall. According to College Historian and Keeper of Kenyoniana Thomas Stamp ’73, “there, for a supremely reasonable price, a Kenyon student, a member of the faculty or staff, a lifelong Gambier resident or short-time visitor to the Village could be assured of a delicious, carefully prepared and healthy meal, topped off by a decadent dessert, all enjoyed at communal tables where conversations ranged from the trivial to the profound.”

Gambier resident Victoria Baumann, friend to Turgeon and Klein, worked in the Cafe during its later years. Now, she is organizing the event once more in Turgeon’s memory. “I can‘t think of a better way to celebrate Peggy,” Baumann wrote in a message to the Collegian. “A number of Peggy’s friends and fans have worked together to make it happen.” Baumann previously hosted a memorial fundraiser Cafe at the Parish House in honor of Klein’s life when she died in 2019.  

Victoria Baumann’s husband, Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann, was a devoted guest at the Friday Cafe. “From the start of my Kenyon experience, more than 40 years ago, the Friday Lunch Cafe was ‘the Good Lunch,’ the one that, for a moment, lifted the community out of central Ohio and into a more elegant and tasteful (as well as tasty) world,” Fred Baumann wrote to the Collegian.

Grandson to Peggy Turgeon and one of Kenyon’s current students, Charlie Turgeon ’23, described the role of his grandmother’s cooking in his childhood: “Growing up, Peggy was always the most amazing chef in my family. Christmas dinner was an absolute feast thanks to Peggy and always was followed by her exquisite pastries,” he wrote to the Collegian. “I was so glad to hear growing up that Peggy was able to share this talent on such a large scale at Friday Cafe on campus.”

While the longstanding tradition came to an end when Turgeon and Klein retired, the excitement about the Cafe lives on within the campus community. 

“While I was unable to attend during my own time at Kenyon, it makes me very happy when alumni and professors ask me about her and tell me they loved going to eat with her every Friday, and I am thrilled to get my own first-hand experience this Friday to honor her,” Charlie  said. “Peggy was not only an amazing chef, but I hope this event also encapsulates her beautiful energy.”

This Friday, those who miss the presence of the Cafe at Kenyon can celebrate its brief return while others experience it for the first time. Most importantly, the Cafe will take place in memory of Peggy Turgeon. “She always had such a positive attitude no matter what was thrown at her in life and always tended to others’ needs before her own. I miss her very much and I know she is going to be smiling seeing the Kenyon community coming together for one last cafe!” Charlie said. 

The Friday Cafe will take place from 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or until sold out on Friday at Harcourt Parish House, 201 W. Brooklyn St.


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