Cover photo for George Whitesell Peffer III's Obituary
George Whitesell Peffer III Profile Photo
1952 George 2024

George Whitesell Peffer III

January 24, 1952 — March 7, 2024


George Peffer, a beloved Youngstown poet and teacher, died Thursday, March 7, 2024 due to complications following surgery. A lifelong resident of the area, his writing reflected a deep affection for his hometown, often expressed as distress over its steady decline in recent decades.

 He taught poetry and literature at Youngstown State University, Kent State University, and for 14 years at McDonald High School. There he was on a mission to expose his students to the magic of literature, that they could experience it as a gateway to other worlds, fresh ideas and ultimately self-awareness. His classroom enthusiasm made him popular, his students sensing how deeply he cared about the trajectory of their lives. Dozens stayed in touch with him over the years, keeping “Mr. Peffer” abreast of their graduations, marriages and children.

 George Peffer’s poetry was published in multiple literary magazines, including Youngstown Poetry and Pig Iron Review. He published two volumes of his work, Orphan Trees (with Terry Murcko)(1980) and Personal Effects (1993). The poet William Greenway described the latter as “distinguished not only by Peffer’s characteristic wit, but by his mastery of tonalities, a blend of the skeptical and the hopeful, the humorous and the tragic, that embody and ennoble all the paradoxes that make us human.”

 Those words describe not just the poetry but the man himself. Fiercely opinionated, yet a gentle soul, George was as devoted to his many friends as he was to his students. His empathy was never absent from his dry wit and piercing questions – both always right on target. To be George’s friend was to be loved by someone connected to the beauty and pain of the world, who saw it also in you.

 George Whitesell Peffer III was born in 1952 to George and Kathy Peffer, his father employed by the then-thriving steel industry. He grew up on the North Side of Youngstown, graduating from Rayen High School before going on to earn two degrees from Youngstown State University.

 He married Cindy Kish, a fellow teacher, in 1987. During their 36 years together, they became well-known members of the Youngstown art scene and avid collectors of work by local artists. They also shared a love of animals - their home was seldom without a Labrador retriever and at least a couple of cats; they delighted in the wildlife that regularly appeared in their woods-adjacent yard.

 Along with Cindy Kish Peffer, George is survived by siblings Carol Peffer of Mentor, Anjulie Peffer Greenman (Charles, deceased) of Worcester, MA and Robert Peffer (Mary Ann) of Isle of Palms, SC. Niece and nephews Chrissy Peffer, Allen Greenman and Jack Greenman. Great-nephews Bryan Peffer, Tallmadge Peffer, Everett Greenman and Charley Greenman. Sister-in-law Nancy Kish. And a host of loving, lifelong friends.

 A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, April 21, 2024 at Pioneer Pavilion in Mill Creek Park: Old Furnace Rd, Youngstown, OH 44511 from 1-4 PM.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County 812 Youngstown Kingsville Rd., Vienna, OH 44473.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of George Whitesell Peffer III, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Sunday, April 21, 2024

1:00 - 4:00 pm (Eastern time)

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