Lois Peeples featured in H-P

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The Ebony Girls

Sisters say they mimic the Golden Girls … minus Blanche

Move over, “Golden Girls.” Stevensville has the Ebony Girls.

Benton Harbor natives and sisters Barb and Lois Peeples and Gladys Peeples-Burks retired and moved in together 12 years ago.

The “Golden Girls” was an American TV sitcom that ran from 1985-92 about four mature women who lived together – sensible Dorothy, ditzy Rose, man-hungry Blanche and blunt Sophia, Dorothy’s mother.

“We’re the ‘Golden Girls’ minus Blanche,” Barb Peeples said.

All three sisters worked in education, with Barb Peeples, “the youngest,” and Gladys Peeples-Burks, 87, working most of their years with Benton Harbor Area Schools. Lois Peeples, 77, said she was a teacher in the Chicago area and was the last to retire in 2004.

“That’s when we bought the house,” Lois Peeples said. “They had both retired, and I said, ‘I’m not going to stay in this.’ They were having so much fun going on trips and all. I said, ‘I’m out of here, too.’” The sisters sat down recently with Staff Writer Louise Wrege to talk about their life living together.

How did you become the Ebony Girls?

Lois: After we realized we could be the Ebony Girls, a takeoff of the “Golden Girls,” there was a fight to see who was going to be Dorothy.

Barb: Because she was the most together person, it ended up with Lois being t he Dorothy of the group.

Lois: That was easy.

Barb: Gladys is Sophia. She’s the oldest one. She’s the wisest one. That’s what Sophia was. And I don’t mind (being) Rose.

Lois: She balked at first.

Gladys: Rose was smarter than they gave her credit for.

Lois: She’s always positive. She’s always a lot of fun. That’s what Barb is, not so much the ditzy part.

Barb: And most of our mail comes to “The Ebony Girls.” Everybody knows us as that.

Lois: There’s even a catalog that comes here, “The Ebony Girls.” I don’t know how that got to be.

How did you know you could live together?

Lois: What prompted us to do it primarily was the need to watch out for each other. We were each alone. We knew we could do it because we had always traveled together. We belong to the same organizations. We knew we could get along. We have our moments. The house is big enough, you can get away.

Gladys: Some say they could live with one sister but there’s no way they could live with two.

Lois: They’re shocked to hear that we’re still together.

Gladys: W! e have some cousins in Fort Lauderdale who mimicked us and they’re sisters and the three of them live together. They’re managing.

Barb: They looked at the amount of money that they spend and how much they save staying together. Economically, it makes sense.

Barb: We enjoyed taking cruises. We loved long car trips. Now, we’re getting too old to drive.

Lois: We had gone abroad. Never had any problem. We knew we could live together.

The house is beautiful. Did it look like this when you bought it?

Lois: No. In fact, Gladys wondered when Barb and I decided (we wanted to buy this house) and wanted us to reconsider it. We said to Gladys, “We’re going to go back and look at that house (in Stevensville) again,” and she said, “For what?”

What was the house like?

Lois: The colors were terrible. That’s one thing that turned you off. There was blue everywhere.

Barb: Especially light blue. We could see beyond that.

Lois: The carpet was worn. There had been a dog in here so there were pet stains on the carpet. The windows needed replacing.

Gladys: It was pretty much superfi cial, though, and they could see past, alt hough we did spend a lot of energy and money bringing it to be comfor! table and fresh. Structurally, it’s a sound house. We’re the ninth owners. It was built in 1974.

Barb: It’s hard to believe that that many owners had so much space and they didn’t do anything with it.

Lois: Half of the lower level wasn’t finished.

Barb: We saw it and were like, wow, we know what we can do with all of this space. It’s four bedrooms. We turned one into a library. This was the only house that we saw that offered three bedrooms with their own bathrooms. Plus the extra room because we like to entertain.

Lois: We used to have a big stayat- home cruise party. The first time, we invited over 100 people.< /p>

Barb: We turned the house into a cruise ship because we like cruising. We had the different decks.

Lois: Captain’s dinner, talent show around the pool.

What are your duties? Who does what?

Gladys: When we first moved here, of course I was 12 years younger, I actually did the yardwork. I even cut grass occasionally.

Lois: And lopped off trees.

Gladys: I’d cut down trees and move shrubs.

Lois: Barb and I wo uld look out there in amazement – What is she doing out there? It w! ould be 90 degrees and there would be a heat advisory and we’d call out, “Gladys, they’re telling old people to come in out of the heat.” And she’d say, “Well, if I see any out here, I’ll tell them to go inside.”

Gladys: Over the years, I have switched pretty much to perennials. It’s mostly just weeding and watering. I love the outdoors, and I love working in the yard. Now I confine most of my outdoor activities to the flower garden. I grow a lot of things in pots.

Lois: She can just sit back and read books. I cook. I read recipes and try out new dishes on these two. Most of them are pretty good.

Gladys: They are.

Barb: She’s more critical of her cooking than we are.

Lois: I’m always trying something new.

Barb: I do the cleaning except for our personal space. If you walk into cobwebs, I’m to blame.

Do you belong to the same organizations?

Barb: Gladys and I belong to Calling All Colors, and Lois helps. Calling All Colors will be holding their annual fundraiser Oct. 8 at the Hilton Garden Inn. The monies raised will help fund the program and provide scholarships for students attending Lake Michigan College who have demonstrated a passion for improving race relations in the Twin Cities area.

Contact:, 93 2-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege
Calling themselves the Ebony Girls, from left, sisters Gladys Peeples-Burks, Barbara Peeples and Lois Peeples are all retired and live together in Stevensville. They are pictured here on Wednesday.

Don Campbell / HP staff

First Presbyterian Sends Commissioner to GA222

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Ruling Elder Daniel Van Beek was selected and commissioned by the Lake Michigan Presbytery as one of four commissioners to the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Portland June 17-25. Please keep him and all of the commissioners in your prayers this week.


First Presbyterian a Morton Hill Stalwart

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Morton Hill Resurgence

Talking Saturday outside the Morton House Museum in Benton Harbor are, from left, Chuck Jager, member of the museum board; Corey Bell, founder of the Morton Hill Improvement Association; and the Rev. Laurie Hartzell, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, which is behind the museum. They spoke about the future of Morton Hill after Jager talked at the church about the neighborhood’s history.

BENTON HARBOR — Supporters of Morton Hill in Benton Harbor want to make sure they are part of the rejuvenation of the city as former factory towns bounce back.

“Nationwide, not just Benton Harbor, we see a resurgence of downtowns and cities,” said historian Chuck Jager, who lived on the hill for 10 years and is a longtime member of the board of directors for the Morton House Museum. “People are now going, ‘Hey, I want to live in cities. I want to hang out in cities.’ It’s becoming the cool thing to do.”

Jager spoke Saturday about the history of Morton Hill at First Presbyterian Church, which has been on the hill for almost 125 years.

After his presentation, the future of the hill was discussed by people from the museum, the church and the Morton Hill Improvement Association.

Association founder Corey Bell said he grew up in Benton Harbor and bought a house on Morton Hill in 2003.

“I like that Morton Hill is adjacent to the new Benton Harbor,” he said. “There’s movement in the (Benton Harbor) Arts District.”

In addition, he said he has always admired the Morton House.

“It is elegant,” he said. “I love those pillars. And I’m into the historical significance.”

Bell said he has teamed up with First Presbyterian Church on several projects to clean up the hill. His association meets at 7 p.m. the last Tuesday of every month at the church.

“My whole goal is to shine a spotlight on this little special section of town,” he said. “I want to let my fellow Benton Harbor (residents) know that we’ve got to become better stewards of Territorial Road and Morton Hill. I believe we’ve inherited a very special neighborhood.”

To help highlight Morton Hill, Bell said his association will build a welcome area at the corner of Paw Paw Avenue and Territorial Road this summer using $25,000 in grant money issued last fall by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Besides the welcome area, he said the money will be used to hire an architect to draw plans for the area along Territorial Road and Paw Paw and Waukonda avenues.

He said the plans will be used to attract additional grants to fund improvements.

“We’re trying to build momentum and make it contagious,” he said.

The Rev. Laurie Hartzell of First Presbyterian Church said the church is looking at how it can improve Morton Hill.

“This church, it’s heartbeat is partnerships with the community,” she said. “It’s really put its money into that and not into bricks and mortar.”

But, she said the building is more than 50 years old and in need of repair.

“We had to decide what are we going to do with our building,” she said. “… The church is the people, not the building. Should we stay here?”

She said the roof leaks in the winter and the narrow hallways create a cramped feeling.

“We basically heard in the community that they want us to stay,” she said. “So, we’ve decided to stay.”

Hartzell said it is estimated to cost $800,000 to fix the roof and expand the entrance of the church to make it more welcoming.

“We don’t have a lot of space for children and youth activities. Opening up our (entryway) also opens up other space in the building to be used for other things,” she said.

She said the church is raising the money before it starts construction.

In addition, Morton House Museum has plans for expansion.

Jager said when the museum opens for the season May 14, it will unveil an archive room, which was built by his son, Sam Jager, as his Eagle Scout project.

“It will be a place where people can do research and use our materials,” he said.

He said the Morton House will have a busy summer as it holds activities celebrating the city’s 150th anniversary.

Jager said the board’s long-term plan for the Morton House is to rebuild the Morton barn, which got termites and was torn down in the 1960s. He said the rebuilt barn would be used for additional exhibit space and office space.