61 years together, three days apart

Few ever reach the milestone Edwin “Pete” Peterson and Joan Peterson made in their lives.

Married for the better part of 61 years, they died within three days of each other right around the Thanksgiving weekend, separated for just three days before being reunited in death.

The Petersons lived most recently in Venice but were longtime Englewood residents before that.

Friends and family reflected on the impact the couple made on their lives.

Pete was involved with turtle conservation and helped found what became the Coastal Wildlife Club. Zoé Bass, president of Coastal Wildlife Club and a permit holder on Manasota Key, was a neighbor of the Petersons’.

“Wilma (Katz) and I inherited what became of his organization, and it would later become Coastal Wildlife Club,” Bass said. “He was a big supporter of us. They were great neighbors.”

According to Bass, there was less regulation when Pete was involved than there is now. It was within the last few years that she heard they had moved to Venice.

A lifelong friend, Barbara Anderson of Englewood, remembers meeting Pete.

“I came to New York City from Vermont. My sister got a room for me with Pete’s aunt from the church and Pete lived across the street. My girlfriend and I had a room with his aunt. We were 20 years old, and so he came over to see what we were like, and he took us to a young people’s meeting at church.”

When the Petersons retired to Florida, the Andersons followed suit. The Petersons lived in Manasota Key and the Andersons lived in Englewood.

“We used to go out to dinner a lot,” Anderson said. “We also went to the same church — Englewood United Methodist Church.”

The Petersons were active in the church and bell choirs.

“They’re very humble people,” said Fonda Davies, director of music ministries and organist of EUMC. “They had a real great sense of humor.”

The Petersons donated a Heyligers organ for the Doan Chapel at EUMC.    Davies said she saw Pete during the week of Thanksgiving.

Pete died Nov. 24. Joan died three days later.

“They’re both going to be missed,” Davies said.    Joan volunteered for the Englewood Chamber of Commerce and Englewood Clinic before it became Englewood Hospital. Pete volunteered with Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity. Both volunteered for Meals on Wheels.

Sylvia Hamilton, manager of the Englewood Meals on Wheels for 26 years, remembers them.

“They really enjoyed talking to those who they gave meals to,” she said.    The Petersons’ son, Mark said the deaths were unexpected, but he can take solace in knowing they’re reunited.

“They lived long and interesting lives,” Mark said. “Dad was working on a revision of his autobiography. He was up to the 1950s and 1960s.”

Mark said he thinks the reason why they were able to stay together so long is they listened to each other. They were never mean or spiteful, he said. They were kind, fair and respectful even if they disagreed with one another.

Mark’s sister, Jill Harrison, said they were effective in other aspects in their lives.

“They were both people with incredible integrity,” Harrison said. “They were generous with their time, their talents and their finances. These traits are strongly imprinted in me and have taught me that these are traits to be emulated.”

Current Peterson photo

PHOTO PROVIDED Edwin “Pete” Peterson and Joan Peterson were married more than 61 years and lived on Manasota Key, where Pete helped found turtle patrols. Pete died Nov. 24, and Joan died three days later. The photo was taken in 2005 in Manasota Key.

Peterson marriage photo

PHOTO PROVIDED Edwin “Pete” and Joan Peterson were married for 61 years before dying three days apart. This photo was taken at their wedding in 1951.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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