We offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of the Rev. Oren Arthur “Pete” Peterson, who died on June 10, 2019, at the age of 91.
Oren was born on October 11, 1927, in Williamsburg, IA, to Oren Peterson and Myrtle Peterson. He graduated in 1945, from a small-town school system in IA, and joined the Navy aviation cadet program. In 1949, Pete received his Bachelor of Science in pre-med, from the University of Iowa, following which he became a fighter pilot in 1950. In 1955, he was ordered to the Navy Intelligence Postgraduate School in Washington D.C. Thereafter, Pete served for three years as a staff intelligence officer abroad USS Saratoga in the Mediterranean-Atlantic; two years as a Commanding Officer for a carrier airborne warning squadron on an anti-submarine carrier; and six years in Washington D.C., as instructor in the Intelligence School and as an editor briefing officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. Pete served in the Navy for 21 years, retired in 1968, and then began his training for UU Ministry. In 1971, he earned his Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School.
Rev. Peterson was ordained on October 8, 1971, by the Unitarian Society of Germantown, PA, where he carried out his first ministry from 1971 to 1973. In that year, he was called to settled ministry to the First Parish Church UU, Duxbury, MA where he would serve for six years. From 1980 to 1984, Rev. Peterson ministered at the UU Church in Eugene, OR; and at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, HI, from 1984 to 1985. He went on to complete further parish ministries at the Emerson UU Church, Canoga Park, CA (1986); and the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines Iowa, IA (1986-1993). Rev. Peterson retired from active ministry in 1993. After his retirement, he served for almost a decade, as an Interim Minister at the following congregations: Hope Unitarian Church, Tulsa, OK (1993-1994); First UU Church of Austin, TX (1994-1995); UU Society, IA (1996-1997); People’s Church, Kalamazoo, MI (1997-1998); the First UU Society in Newton, MA (1998-2000); Beacon UU Congregation in Summit, NJ (2000-2001); and the Starr King UU Fellowship, NH (2001-2002).
Rev. Peterson performed a variety of other roles on behalf of the denomination. He was Vice-President for the Pacific North West District of the UUA. He served the UUMA Executive Committee (1975-1978) and frequently attended the District UUMA programs. Furthermore, Rev. Peterson served the Channing bi-Centennial, the UUA Sesquicentennial and UUA-US bi-Centennial Committees.
Outside of his ministry, Oren was an engaged member of the community. He was on the Program Advisory Committee of Oregon Public Television. He served as an active member of the National Hemlock Society; Planned Parenthood; the American Civil Liberties Union; Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association; and the Experimental Aircraft Association. Pete was also instrumental to help found the Iowa chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Additionally, he performed as a Chaplain of the Masonic Lodge and was an active Rotary Member in Duxbury, MA.
Oren’s wife Patricia noted, “During the Korean War, Oren’s plane was shot down. He ditched the plane in the Sea of Japan and was rescued by helicopter.”
Oren is survived by his wife of 49 years, Patricia Knight Peterson; his children Thea Peterson, Thomas Peterson, Laura Peterson, and David Peterson; his nine grandchildren Michael, Oren Silas, Nathan, Beth, Rebecca, Anton, Tepper, Stella, and Leonard; and his three great-grandchildren Theo, Raven, and Alva. He was preceded in death by his siblings Adela Engel and Phyllis Murphy; his twin brother Keith Peterson; his sons Oren A. Peterson Jr and Paul Peterson; and his grandson Max.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland; and to the Good Life Fund at Scottish Rite Park, 2909 Woodland Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312.
A celebration of Oren’s life was held at 10:30 am on Saturday, August 17, 2019, at the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines, 1800 Bell Ave, Des Moines, IA 50315.
Notes of condolences may be sent to Patricia Peterson at 2909 Woodland Ave Apt 1001, Den Moines, IA 50312.
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