John was a native son of Albert Lea, except for years in college and military service during the Korean War. He was born in 1928 in the former Naeve Hospital building of Bertha and Elmer Peterson. Her mother had the “luxury” of staying in the hospital for two weeks with her new baby. John’s paternal grandfather arrived in America from Sweden on a sailing ship after the Civil War in the 1860s.
During John’s growing years in Albert Lea, he was employed by the neighborhood milkman to help deliver bottles of milk to porches at dawn for which he received 50 cents a day and all the chocolate milk he had. he could drink. This was followed a few years later by a summer period of “sidewalk sales” to residents of the town of Albert Lea.
After graduating from Albert Lea High School, he arrived at Carlton College in Northfield as a freshman and showed up to the hockey coach ready to play…on his figure skates, a skill he had picked up on the frozen bays of Fountain Lake – a stint in hockey. skates was suggested and followed. During a summer break, he worked as a porter in the lobby of Glacier National Park, hoping to earn money from tips carrying luggage for tourists. But he found his duties included arranging chairs in the lobby for the nightly Indian show and cleaning bathrooms. At the end of his senior year, he was hired to teach English as a second language in Lyon, France. The local editorial board said otherwise. He is expected to remain in the United States to be immediately available to report for service in the armed forces. That call came a year later after John completed his freshman year at the University of Michigan Law School.
Returning to law school after two years of military service at Ft. Smith Arkansas, he met a classmate who was to become his wife. He wooed her with a second-hand ukulele picked up in Arkansas to the tune of “You are My Sunshine.” After graduation, he joined his father, Elmer Peterson, who practiced solo law at Albert Lea from the early 1920s. The law office was located on Broadway on the second floor of what is now Addie’s Floral and Gifts. Over the years the firm has grown to include several attorneys, eventually joined by John’s son, Doug Peterson, and is now located in the renovated Elks building.
After John retired, his years were spent in Tucson, Arizona in the winters and Albert Lea in the summers. John was often seen strolling around Fountain Lake with his wife in good weather and bad – a custom that continues into his eighties and beyond in Albert Lea and Tucson.
His positivity, humor, kindness and legal skills are treasured heirlooms to his family.
The survivors are: wife, Cynthia; son, Doug (Jill) Peterson; daughter, Carla Street; grandchildren: Corbyn (Matt) Olson, Connor (Danilo) Dorsey, Lucas (Malory) Peterson and CeCe Street; great-grandsons: Brekken and Crawford Olson, and Declan Dorsey. Predeceased by: sister, Dorothy May Obaid; brother, Elmer “Bob” Peterson, and grandson, Jean Marc Ellul Street.
John passed away on Thursday March 24, 2022 at the age of 93.
The memorial service will be Friday, April 1, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Albert Lea with visitation one hour prior.
Memorials are preferred to the donor’s chosen charity.