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“He was an icon”: San Marcos remembers local bird

Jen Nguyen

Jay Cody, a former San Marcos City Cemetery sexton, met with a few friends for a function to celebrate his retirement in 2022. While talking about Cody’s work, the question came up of whether Pete the Peacock, the lone peacock that resided in the cemetery, were to die.

“If [Pete’s passing] ever happened, I hope that people will let me know that this has happened,” Cody said.

This May, Cody received calls and articles from several people saying Pete died.

While Cody could not attend Pete’s celebration of life due to distance, many San Marcos residents participated in the service. The celebration of life took place at 9:30 a.m. on June 22 at the San Marcos City Cemetery Chapel, where Pete would often take refuge from the rain, storm or heat.

The memorial service presented a poem about Pete written by a Crockett Elementary School student and displayed a miniature of the bronze headstone for his gravesite. It ended with attendees, some adorned in peacock-related attire, sharing their favorite stories of the peacock with one another.

Christie Murillo, the Parks and Recreation marketing and outreach coordinator, said she hoped the service would bring the community together for something unique to San Marcos.

“It just feels good our community can come together over something positive with what their shared love for the peacock that nobody really knows where he came from [or] when he appeared exactly in the cemetery,” Murillo said.

According to a Facebook post from Wonder World Cave & Adventure, Phyllis Brace, the park owner’s grandmother, fed the peacocks as she lived near the park. After Brace died in 2006, Pete followed her from the park to her resting place in the San Marcos City Cemetery.

Pete lived in the cemetery, rarely leaving the area with the chapel. He roosted in the branches of a giant live oak tree every night. However, he faced some troubles during his residence.

In February 2019, Cody was concerned about Pete being in the cold in the temperature dropped to the single digits for two consecutive days. When Pete saw Cody checking on him in the morning, he flew out of his roost. Even though Cody brought him food, he said Pete “couldn’t care less” as he put out his wings and warmed up near a headstone, where the snow melted for a while.

“Pete’s a survivor — that’s what I always tell people,” Cody said. “He survived a lot of inclement weather, and then oftentimes dogs would chase him, and somehow he always made it.”

The San Marcos community often cared for Pete and looked out for him. Whenever they saw him, people would bring him water and food such as peanuts, popcorn and cat food. One woman would even bring Pete scrambled eggs she baked every day.

People around the neighborhood would bring their families and children to the cemetery to look for Pete. Cody recalls that whenever people could not find Pete, they would come to him to ask, ‘Where’s Pete?’ or ‘How’s Pete?’

On the night of May 25, a young woman walking around the cemetery found Pete’s body. The following morning, she reported it to Scott McLelland, the San Marcos City Cemetery sexton. McLelland would receive more calls afterward from people who also walked by.

“[Hearing those calls and receiving the news] was heartbreaking,” McLelland said. “He was an icon. It’s quieter and lonelier without him at times. It was sad.”

On May 28, McLelland informed Murillo of Pete’s death. The same day, she created the post on SMTX Parks and Recreation. Many people shared their memories of Pete through photos, videos and stories. Murillo said that even knowing how familiar the San Marcos community was with Pete, the department was surprised by the reaction.

“We all felt the connection with them, and we all felt sad about what’s happening, but then to know that so many other people were sad about it too was like, ‘oh man, he was even more famous than what we thought,'” Murillo said.

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