Emily and Peter Sensenbrenner, with eldest son Peter, sit for a formal photo in Ripon around 1986.
Emily and Peter Sensenbrenner, with eldest son Peter, sit for a formal photo in Ripon around 1986.

“Elvis est mort.”
“Elvis ist tot.”
“Elvis está muerto.”

   No matter the language, the message was no less sorrowful.

   It was Aug. 16, 1977, and the 25-year-old assistant administrator at Baptist Hospital in Memphis had to confirm to the world the tragic news: the King of Rock ’n’ Roll was gone.

   As Presley’s lifeless body was wheeled into the medical center, young Peter Sensenbrenner was charged with directing the hospital’s switchboard operators how to convey that Elvis had passed.

   “Because people were calling in from all over the world, he had to write down phonetically how to say, ‘Elvis is dead’ in French and German [and other languages],” recounted Emily Sensenbrenner of her husband of 34 years and the Commonwealth’s 2017 Person of the Year.

   Though his claim to fame may be telling the world that one of the 20th century’s most significant cultural icons had died, Peter’s importance locally is spreading a more profound message: Quietly give back and expect nothing in return.

Read the full story in the Jan. 4, 2018 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.