Sensational Seniors – September 2017

The first 30 minutes of my interview with Mac and Peggy Peffley was spent touring their expansive Singler Lane home to see their extensive eclectic art and southwestern pottery collection, which reflects their world travels and experiences. Then it was time to get busy with the life stories of two more of Jacksonville’s “Sensational Seniors.”

Mac was born on September 13, 1935 in the small town of Goshen, Indiana where twelve years later his brother came along. Mac’s father was a bank teller and his mother also worked at a bank, but his father died when Mac was a sophomore in high school, forcing Mac to take on evening and weekend jobs to help the family survive. An able student, especially in math and science, Mac graduated from Goshen High School in 1953 but enlisted in the Navy under the “Minority Cruise” program whereby, if the recruit enlisted prior to age 17, he was able to be discharged one day prior to his 21st birthday. Mac’s first marriage came about during his time in the Navy, and his first child was born, as well. Once out of the Navy, Mac utilized the GI Bill to attend the Mennonite Goshen College in his hometown. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Math and Physics followed by a Master’s degree in Physics from Purdue.

Peggy was a West Coast girl from the start, having the distinction of being born on September 2, 1939 in Yosemite National Park where her father worked for the US Park Service. Her younger sister also was born in the park and later a brother came along. Her father made a career change to insurance, and at the age of three, Peggy moved with her family first to Palo Alto and then to San Francisco. Peggy remembers San Francisco fondly. “I loved San Francisco. It was a cultural Mecca, an exciting place to live and I had a host of friends.” She was active in student government in her high school, was the homecoming queen and through her involvement in Junior Achievement in 1954, flew without her family to a Junior Achievement convention at Miami University, heady stuff for this young teenager. Unfortunately for Peggy, her father’s business caused them to move to San Mateo when she was a sophomore in high school where she says she was miserable. “I hated it because I had lived in a city of so much culture and diversity and San Mateo was just the opposite. It didn’t help that I was the new girl in town and struggled making friends.” She survived these unhappy years and upon graduation entered the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). She majored in Art and Home Economics, joined the Delta Gamma sorority and met her first husband.

After receiving his Master’s degree, Mac relocated to the west coast to begin a 26-year career as a radiation effects specialist with Hughes Aircraft. By this time, he had two daughters and a son. In addition to his work at Hughes Aircraft, he worked part-time at Fullerton College teaching physics. His marriage failed and his son died prior to Mac’s first retirement from Hughes Aircraft at age 53, a retirement that did not last long as Hughes called him back to do contract work. It was while on a consulting trip to the Santa Barbara Research Center in 1975 that his path crossed Peggy’s, where she worked as a secretary. At this time, Peggy was a single mother with two children and in the midst of a 27-year career with the Research Center. They were married in 1976, and Mac moved to Santa Barbara and they started their life together. Mac remembers, “We got together, got baptized and Christ became the center of our lives and that has made all the difference.” They were very involved in a community church in Santa Barbara, serving in several leadership roles. In addition, Peggy for 18 years, led a “Devotion in Motion” exercise class in their church. Peggy also became an avid gardener, was an alumni advisor for the Delta Gamma sorority and together they were area representatives for the Education Foundation for Foreign Students. In this role, they also hosted six exchange students for a year each, all of whom they are still in contact with.

In the late 1990’s Mac decided it was time to officially retire but with Peggy’s daughters urging her, Peggy started a home-based clothing business, which she ran until 2014. This business was a good match for Peggy’s vivacious personality. “It was so much fun as I’ve had this sales thing flowing through my veins all the time, and I was finally able to use my home economics college training to focus on colors and fabrics.”

Their move to Jacksonville came in 2002 because of family. They were visiting Peggy’s daughter and family when the national tragedy of 9/11 happened and, as Mac relates, “It impacted us and we thought that, outside of our faith, family is the most important thing in our lives.” The clincher for the move came when their granddaughter, Madeline, said, “I know you have your church in Santa Barbara, but we have churches here and, if you don’t move, you won’t have me.” Luckily, there was a home for sale down the street from their Jacksonville family; they looked at it and a week later bought it.

Most of us in our senior years realize that we cannot predict what is to come in our future or even tomorrow, and for Mac this reality hit home ten years ago when he was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a debilitating eye disease. In Mac’s case, it first came on with a hemorrhage in one eye followed by a hemorrhage in the second eye and then a second hemorrhage in the first eye, leaving him officially blind. “I went from being able to drive, read and focus on our beautiful art to not being able to do any of this.” While many people would go into a profound depression with such a tragic life-changing event, Mac’s resilient sprit and faith carried him on. Being a veteran, he qualified for the Blind Rehabilitation Center in Seattle. This intense five-week training program taught him how to survive in shopping centers, how to walk on sidewalks and roads, how to manage traffic lights and how to still exist in a technological world. The success of this program can be witnessed by seeing Mac at work in his expansive office, using his computers, voice activated email system and other new, sight-assisted equipment. Or, you can encounter Mac on most any day enjoying his daily walk around Jacksonville. He says there are two simple things to remember: “right click to re-boot and it is all about attitude.”

Prior to Mac’s eye issues, he enjoyed doing volunteer work in several local schools, helping with math and reading, and he was an avid bicyclist and hiker. Now he enjoys getting together from time to time with “The Lunch Bunch,” a group of neighborhood guys and a weekly meeting with friend Peter Grant to talk physics. He still enjoys helping with the Meals on Wheels program and has found that with someone else doing the driving, nothing is lost.

Peggy has never been one to sit still, and her Jacksonville tenure is no different. She is a long-time member of the Jacksonville Garden Club, as her backyard would attest, she still maintains a serious exercise routine, she belongs to a local chapter of P.E.O. and has for ten years been a Jackson County CASA volunteer, serving as an advocate for children in the court system. When time allows, she enjoys a round of golf and plays bridge at least once a week. She and Mac are dedicated members of the Jacksonville Boosters Club where Peggy is currently serving as Vice President, and they enjoy attending the Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, a short walk from their home. For the past 12 years the Peffleys have hosted a classical Britt performer, a highlight of their summer.

Collectively, they have adopted Jacksonville and, according to Peggy, “Jacksonville has so much positive to offer that you can’t help but be happy here.” Those of us who are fortunate to know this engaging couple are happy they are part of our lives.