Take a moment to remember the style and grace of Peggy Gorman, mother of jewelry designer Rocki Gorman.
When PEGGY GORMAN died at age 90 on June 1, we lost a Southwestern style icon and dear friend of the magazine, and Rocki Gorman lost her mom and her best friend, her inspiration, and her longtime business partner. “My dad passed away in 2013, and my mom died on what would have been his 90th birthday,” Rocki tells C&I. “We were the Three Amigos, and now, sadly, I am the last man standing.”
Rocki will carry on the family jewelry business, Rocki Gorman Gallery at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe. The business has long been a family affair. Peggy and her husband, Fran, began trading jewelry some 60 years ago on cross-country trips between turquoise mines in the West and their native New Jersey. In 1960, the couple opened Peggy’s Bou-Tepee, which Rocki says was the first store in New Jersey to sell Indian jewelry.
“Mom had an incredible eye for quality and workmanship and Dad for the stones,” Rocki says. “Our store in Garden State Plaza Mall was very successful. It was after this that we collectively decided to move out west, and Albuquerque was the first place we called home.”
Eight years ago, the family moved to Santa Fe to be closer to the store. There, Peggy was a familiar sight. “She went to work every day with the sole motivation of making each customer feel beautiful,” Rocki says. “She was a glamorous, impeccably dressed, elegant lady who had a great amount of dignity and respect for others. Thanks to Mom, from humble beginnings, we grew into the Rocki Gorman brand. She was an extraordinary business person, the pillar of the business, and allowed me to become the creative spirit behind our success.”
She worked in the studio with her daughter until two weeks before she passed. “Till the last day she worked, she was dressed in a Double D jacket and vintage collection skirt and my jewelry,” Rocki says. “She loved my designs and sometimes she would get this twinkle in her eye and say to customers, ‘Oh, my Rocki made this for me.’ That twinkle in her eye was a spark from her soul.”
Born Margaret Ann Wells in Bayonne, New Jersey, on January 7, 1929, Peggy began modeling for catalogs at the age of 16. She met her future husband in high school; they married on September 24, 1955. Rocki was their only child.
Peggy loved music — Frank Sinatra and Dick Haymes were favorites — and enjoyed sewing, clothing, and accessorizing. “She was a natural clothes horse, someone who looked good in anything she put on,” Rocki says.
She rescued feral cats and donated to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. And she played a mean card game. “She’ll strike me for this, but that woman loved playing blackjack and won a tournament of all men,” Rocki says. “Her favorite story was that at the end of the tournament, one of the men looked at her and said, ‘Lady, you may look like an angel, but you sure do play hard!’ She loved that!”