June 18, 1940___________________________July 1, 1997
From an article by Koren Wetmore in the Lake Arrowhead newspaper in the first week of July, 1997.
Several hundred people attended an outdoor memorial service at Rim High Tuesday for County Fire Capt. Tom Peterson, who succumbed to cancer July 1. Participants embraced, some tearfully, while others chatted with friends familiar and new; their lives drawn together by the man they affectionately called "Pete." The atmosphere was surprisingly festive. To understand, you'd have to have known Peterson, said Don Humbert, battalion commander for the county fire department's Lake Arrowhead division who worked with Peterson for 25 years. "Tom was a free spirit. He had his own opinions, but he knew how to live life to its fullest," said Humbert. "He looked at life as common sense. Yet his common sense was little off-shaded from what we'd consider common sense." Humbert recalled a time when a firefighter insisted on wearing pajamas at the station, which disturbed Peterson. "He'd say, 'Anyone who'd wear pajamas like that has no common sense.'" As for his own attire, Peterson preferred T-shirts and sandals to his uniform, said Rick Groff, captain of Fire Station 94 in Lake Arrowhead. Even so, Peterson's "common sense" prevailed in fighting fires. "He'd tell us, 'Hey, common sense, put the wet stuff (water) on the red stuff (fire),'" said Groff, who worked 14 years with Peterson. "Yet Tom was always the one that stayed prepared to do his job in a professional manner. He upheld the traditions and pride of the fire service." Peterson's brother Gary delivered the eulogy, painting a picture of a man who touched people's hearts. A man so dedicated to people that while in the hospital he worried not about his health, but about whether or not he'd be able to keep his promise to fix a neighbor's sprinkler. "He never came against a hurdle he couldn't jump or an obstacle he couldn't get around. Somehow he always had the heart to handle it." The wind stilled and the crows circling above silenced as Peterson's son Ken oversaw the ringing of the last fire alarm to honor Peterson's completion of his service on earth. Rung from the bell of an old Fontana Fire District Engine, the tone was followed by a radio dispatch from the county communication center announcing: "Capt. Tom Peterson, that was your last alarm. All is well." A 25 engine procession including representatives from area fire departments, the California Department of Forestry, the Forest Service and the National Park Service rode in tribute to Peterson, guiding guests to the North Shore Marina Park, where family and friends enjoyed a barbecue luncheon. Peterson retired in March after 28 years of service with the County Fire Department. He was diagnosed with colon cancer last October. He died in his home at age 57. Peterson is survived by his wife Janet; his sons Jeff and Ken Peterson, who are also firefighters; his stepsons Justin and Ryan Vondriska; and six grandchildren.
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