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Hundreds Celebrate Life Of Irvington's Peyser, Former Congressman

The American flag-draped casket of former Congressman Peter A. Peyser outside of the Church of St. Barnabas before his burial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on Monday. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
The cover of the funeral service program for the late Peter A. Peyser of Irvington. Photo Credit: Provided

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Former U.S. Rep. Peter A. Peyser, 93, was remembered as a caring, loving family man who switched political parties to stand by his convictions.

During funeral services Monday at the Church of St. Barnabas in Peyser's hometown of Irvington, Peyser's children shared a lifetime of warm memories from childhood to the present. 

Penny Peyser recalled a father-daughter train ride to New York City when she was 6 to see "My Fair Lady." She said the New York City trip changed her life. The Hollywood star, who eventually landed acting roles in the movie "All the President's Men'' and several popular TV series, said, "That day, I told him I wanted to be an actress. He never discouraged me."

Penny also shared some food adventures, saying her father "was made for desserts and gravy on everything. . . .You were God's buffet."

Mr. Peyser's tenure in Congress -- in which he served three terms as a Republican and two terms as a Democrat -- came after serving as mayor of Irvington from 1962 to 1970, an elected office that paid $100 monthly while he worked as an insurance executive.

Peyser lost a 1976 GOP primary challenge to incumbent Sen. James Buckley. That unsuccessful bid and acrimony in the Republican Party prompted Peyser to change political parties and return to the U.S. House as a Democrat. Peyser worked to get lower-income youths into college and was active with Children's Village.

The Rev. Nora Smith said, "Peter loved singing" and selected all the music for his funeral including the recessional, "My Country 'tis of Thee." Smith called Peyser "a partner and a husband to his lifelong love, Marguerite, a good man, a good servant, a good shepherd. . .. Peter built a life on care and service. He had more courage of conviction than 10 people."

Monday's service began with the Colgate Thirteen singing, "The Alma Mater of Colgate University," where Peyser graduated before enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Bronze Star.

Jim Peyser said his father decided to move to Irvington after playing tennis at Ardsley Country Club: "If Dad's time (growing up) in Cedarhurst, L.I., was 'A Wonderful Life,' ours was 'The Wonder Years.' "

Peyser's obituary can be found here:

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