By Polly Keary, Editor
On a wall in his room, Alex Peabody had a bulletin board covered with pictures. The board was called “When I’m 50,” and it depicted things he wanted to achieve before the big birthday arrived in two more years.
He wanted an office in New York, a house, a successful career as a writer.
He was working on it, too; he was a regular at Monroe’s authors’ group Wednesday Writers, who facilitator Bernadette Pajer called the most talented writer she had seen. He was writing a novel and reworking the successful one-man play he’d performed in Los Angeles.
Until just weeks ago, he had every reason to expect to celebrate that birthday. But then a catastrophic organ failure landed him in ICU, and finally cost him his life.
Now his friends and family are mourning the shocking loss of the man whose future seemed so bright before being cut so short.
At the bright and cheerful bouncy house playground Jump, Rattle and Roll in Monroe, Kristina Barker is still stunned at the absence of the brother who helped her and her husband, Paul, build the business just two years ago.
“He worked here and lived with us and if Paul and I were here, he’d help with our two kids at home,” she said. “Now it’s only good memories.”
The siblings had taken much different paths in life, but had always been close, and when a long-term relationship ended, Peabody, whose nickname was “Stott,” came to Monroe to regroup.
It was a big shift for the man, who spent time in Monroe as a youth, but who had earned a masters degree in fine arts in theater and spent most of the last 20 years in Los Angeles, where he pursued his interest in television production and theater. To pay the bills, he managed several high-end restaurants and a number of beauty salons.
Among his achievements there was the writing and production of a one-man play called “Keeping Faith: One Man’s Journey into Motherhood.” It was the account of a gay man’s adoption of an infant daughter named Faith, and his struggles to keep her. The play’s run was extended four times and was given a Critic’s Pick in the Los Angeles Times.
“I saw it in 2005,” said his sister. “It was wonderful.”
His long-term partner was also involved in television, working as an executive director on such reality shows as Top Model.
But Peabody and his partner split up about four years ago, and Los Angeles lost its appeal.
It was right about then that Barker and her husband decided to open Jump, Rattle and Roll.
“He saw my dream here and wanted to help,” said Barker.
It was a big adjustment, but Peabody settled in to a downstairs room in his sister’s home, and began working on writing again. He began his first novel and also tried his hand at crime drama screenplays.
About a year and a half ago, he found his way to the Wednesday Writers group that meets weekly at the Monroe Library.
Group facilitator Bernadette Pajer, herself the published author of several successful mysteries, at his memorial shared her memory of his first reading.
“The first word he read aloud from his novel was the F-bomb. From there, the words flowed in such a raw and honest way, we were sucked in, living, breathing, feeling his words,” she said. “When he finished reading, he looked up with doubtful eyes, and for a moment all we could do was stare at him, our mouths open in awe, knowing we were in the presence of someone amazingly gifted. And he had no idea.”
No one wanted to read after Peabody at the weekly meetings, she remembered, describing him as a man with a “hum about him, a nervous energy,” with a voice that was “marvelously rich and raw.”
He thought himself too inexperienced as a writer to offer feedback to other writers, but when he did, it was treasured, Pajer said.
Pajer and the Wednesday Writers were confident that Peabody was going to write successful things.
But as early as mid-summer, Peabody’s family was noticing that he seemed to not have much energy.
“I chalked it up to him writing more,” said Barker. “I’d been asking him to go the doctor and he kept saying he would.”
But he didn’t.
In mid-September, he asked his sister for a week off from everything. Worried, she agreed and checked on him regularly. He missed his Wednesday Writers meeting. Parker texted him in his room to make sure he was okay. He replied that he was fine, just relaxing.
Friday, Sept. 27, he called from his room and told his sister he didn’t think he’d be able to work that weekend, either.
“Then he started making no sense,” said Barker. Alarmed, she insisted that he come out of his room and allow her to take him to the walk-in clinic. When he appeared in the door of his room, she was horrified at his appearance.
“He was so sick,” she said. She told him that she was taking him to the ER, and that she was calling their father, who now lives in Maple Valley.
Valley General Hospital recognized his condition as too grave to treat there, and sent him to Evergreen in Kirkland, where even then he was talking about going home the next day.
There he learned that his kidneys had been failing for months and that his liver had been compromised, too. The reason for that still isn’t clear.
He spent five days in ICU, but it was too late. To everyone’s shock, including his own, he learned he would not survive.
He was placed on hospice care. Five days later, on October 7, he died. October 28 he would have turned 48.
He didn’t get to achieve those dreams he’d laid out on his “When I’m 50″ board. But he succeeded in important things, according to those who were closest. He was a good man, they said.
Pajer remembered him as bold but shy, sensitive and often afraid that people wouldn’t understand the things he was trying to convey, but with the courage to write it anyway.
And for his sister, Alex Peabody was a best friend.
“He was kind, and funny, a soft and approachable and gentle person,” said Barker.