Peggy Leff

Peggy Joyce "Joyce" Leff

1932 - 2024

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Obituary of Peggy Joyce Leff

Peggy Joyce Leff, age 91, died peacefully on March 26, 2024, at her home in Iowa City, surrounded by her family.  

Joyce was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, on November 7th, 1932 - the only child of Willard and Mildred Ferber. After attending grade school in Ottumwa, she moved with her family to Iowa City. Joyce graduated from Iowa City High in 1950 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in teaching from the University of Iowa. She taught English as a second language at Kirkwood Community College for many years.

Joyce met her future husband, Philip Leff, while attending Central Junior High in Iowa City. After their first date at the junior high Paper Doll Dance at the city recreation center, their lifelong relationship was established. Joyce and Phil married in 1953 and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary together this past summer.

She and Phil were both enrolled at the University of Iowa at the time of their marriage, but their educations were interrupted by two unexpected events the following year: Joyce was soon expecting the birth of their first child, Todd, and Phil was called up to the US Air Force. They moved from their apartment above a small grocery store - now Pagliai's Pizza - to a temporary Quonset hut near Kinnick Stadium and finally to Travis Air Force Base in California.  Luckily, Joyce was a person who embraced change and the unexpected with good humor.

Travis became their home for the next three years. Her second child, Missy, was born, and Joyce spent much of these three years without Phil. He was flying missions in the Pacific and serving our country. Once Phil's tour of duty was complete, Joyce and the family moved back to Iowa City. Their third child, Adam, was born a few years later. Joyce and Phil spent the rest of their lives, always together, deeply committed to family, friends and community, in Iowa City. 

As the years passed, Joyce established their home base and Phil joined his father's law firm. Once her children were in school, she re-enrolled at the University of Iowa, completed her degree, and started working as an ESL instructor.  At the same time, Joyce was active in many community service organizations, including the United Way, Project Green, the Shelter House and PEO. She was an active and lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church.

All of this wasn't enough to keep her busy. She played bridge and tennis regularly. Joyce became adept at the potter's wheel. Her many pottery pieces are still used and cherished by the family.  She and Phil both loved dancing and were members of a local dance club. They never shied away from taking the floor and cutting up the rug.

Another passion was cooking - she was self-taught. The family joke was that she (thankfully) expanded her cooking repertoire well beyond the tuna noodle casserole (topped with crushed potato chips) that was an initial family staple. Meals became exotic dishes expertly prepared from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Joyce had a green thumb and kept a wonderful herb and vegetable garden that supplied her kitchen. She was an early, active supporter of the local Pioneer Food Co-op, and an enthusiastic locavore.

Joyce was an avid reader - her bookshelves were packed with a wide range of volumes. She could often be found downtown Iowa City browsing the shelves at Prairie Lights, searching for the perfect book to read or to give as a gift. 

Compassion and curiosity led her and Phil to open their home to a succession of university foreign exchange students, establishing many lifelong friendships and increasing their interest in exploring other locales. They were able to visit many European countries, frequently traveling with the same group of friends. One of Joyce's favorite trips was an African photo safari to Tanzania.

Joyce made her house a true home. She welcomed family, friends, and strangers with effortless elegance. She had a talent for making people feel comfortable and at ease in any situation. In later years, this home brought much comfort and joy to Joyce and Phil. They spent many hours enjoying the sweeping views and wildlife through picture windows and down the graceful, sloping lawn leading to the pond. Cold, snowy winters were spent side-by-side next to the warmth of their fireplace.

Joyce is survived by her adoring family: three children - Todd (Nancy) Leff, Missy (Mike) Petrak, Adam (Laura) Leff; four grandchildren - Hannah (Matt) Sparks & Nick Petrak, Ben Leff & Amelia Leff; three great-grandchildren - Samuel, Emma & Sadie Sparks; her brother-in-law Alan (Jan) Leff; niece and nephews - Craig (Lisa) Leff, Scott (Karen Russell) Leff & Megan (Laurent Mellion) Leff; and seven great-nieces and nephews - Isaac, Jack, Jacob & Ian Leff, Nora & Grant Leff, Stella & Charlotte Mellion.

Phil, the love and devoted partner of her life, preceded her in death on October 21, 2023. 

A Celebration of Life for Joyce will be held from 1-4 pm, Sunday, May 26th, 2024 at 12 Lakeview Drive NE, Iowa City. Donations in memory of Joyce  may be made to Shelter House at and CommUNITY Crisis Services Food Bank:


Celebration of Life

1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Sunday, May 26, 2024
Joyce's Home
12 Lakeview Drive NE
Iowa City, Iowa, United States