Peggy May Szczygiel

Place of birth: Buffalo.

What is your profession? Retired from the Erie County Health Department.

How do you celebrate your Irishness? Celebrate with the St. Patrick’s Day parade, dinner with family and friends and being Merry.

Name a hero you admire and why? Gerry Adams he is a wonderful representative of the Irish.

Biography: Peggy (May) Szczygiel was raised off of Seneca Street in Irish South Buffalo. Her Irish ancestors include the O’Neills, Ryans, Mays, and the Codds. After marrying a First Ward native, she moved to his neighborhood, where she immediately became involved with efforts to improve the neighborhood. In 1974, Peggy and Bert spearheaded efforts to fix the dilapidated Sidway Playground in the First Ward. 

After successfully rehabbing the playground, the two of them decided to offer programming for the neighborhood children. They set up a group of volunteers who supervised after-school activities such as field trips, holiday parties, and tutoring programs. Their group eventually became incorporated as the Old First Ward Community Association.

Bert and Peggy also started collecting memorabilia, maps, histories, and photos from the Buffalo River neighborhoods (Buffalo’s Canal District, First Ward, the Valley and South Buffalo). For 20 years, they displayed their photo and history boards at the Buffalo River Fest. They then shared their collection with the public at the Helen Beaman Center on Elk Street. In 1999, Bert and Peggy co-founded Waterfront Memories and More Museum in a beautiful brick building in Mutual Riverfront Park in the First Ward. Over the years, they have assisted hundreds of people who are searching for information on their family histories, and they have hosted numerous exhibits and speakers for the general public. Their collection has also been used in local history books and film documentaries. 

For almost three decades while doing her community work, Peggy also worked in an administrative role for Erie County’s Women’s, Infants and Children (WIC) program. All told, Peggy has given back to the Western New York community for over 50 years.

2024 Heroes of Irish America Awards