Laurence “Pete” Peterson died yesterday Feb 3 from complications from Covid-19. Pete was a husband, father, grandfather, brother and retired Marine. He was my friend and I miss him greatly.
Pete was a big man in size and personality. He always had a smile and a corny joke to tell when you saw him. Pete and his wife, Rita, were the first people we met when we moved to Oceanside. The minute we pulled into our driveway, they were over inviting us to dinner. That is the kind of neighbors they are. If you live on Saguaro Place, you know Pete and Rita and you have probably eaten some of Rita’s wonderful cooking.
Pete epitomized the phrase “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” He was proud of his 20 years of service to his country. Pete earned two Purple Hearts during combat in Vietnam. He also suffered from PTSD and Agent Orange poisoning. Pete volunteered at the Marine Recruiting Center San Diego as a docent in the Marine Museum. Pete and Rita took us to many events at the center as their guests and Pete knew everyone. Recruits go through the museum at the end of boot camp and Pete loved to tell the stories of the young men he met.
Whenever we would go out to dinner with Pete and Rita, young recruits would come to our table and ask him how he got his Purple Hearts. Pete would always turn around the conversation to the young recruits and what they wanted to do as a Marine.
Rita was everything to Pete. Pete had an unhappy first marriage ruined by the war. His marriage to Rita lasted almost 43 years. They renewed their vows for their 40th anniversary and Pete asked me to help him pick out a ring for Rita. I was honored.
On a personal level with Kevin and I, Pete was a jokester. He always had something crass and funny to say to us. He would cut out newspaper articles for us. If he saw something he knew we were interested in, he would let us know. Pete did this with everyone-he didn’t know a stranger.
We share a neighbor behind us that likes to play her music way too loud. Even after she called him names when he asked her to turn it down, he offered to buy her earbuds so she could listen to her music without bothering her neighbors. That is the kind of person he was. She never took him up on the offer.
I can’t even begin to list the number of times Pete and Rita took us out to dinner or to the casino or to one of the military bases. We became family without even trying. Pete used to say we were the only people he knew from Indiana and he had decided we were “alright”.
Last year, our world fell apart when Kevin was diagnosed with Afib and our beloved dog, Archie, had to be put down due to cancer. Pete would call all the time to see how Kevin was feeling. When they knew we had taken Archie to a special vet and that it was expensive, Pete and Rita came over to our house together and gave us money to help cover the costs. When we decided to rescue our Irene, they came over and gave us more money to help pay for her adoption fees. Kevin and I had never received such generous and unselfish gifts in our lives. To not take the gift would have deeply insulted them, so we promised someday we would help someone like they had helped us. I will never forget their kindness.
The last time we talked with Pete was Sunday night. Rita had called to let us know that Pete was in the hospital and had tested positive for Covid-19. Pete called Kevin to tell us he probably wasn’t going to make it and that he had enjoyed having us for neighbors. He asked us to take care of his wife. Even at the end of his life, Pete was thinking of others.
I am a better person having known Pete. I still can’t believe that I will never see him again and I am heartbroken that his dear Rita couldn’t be by his side when he died. We can’t be with Rita because she has to quarantine until Feb 14th. We call her two or three times a day. She is in shock and deep grief.
So my purpose for writing this blog is this- if such a generous and loving man can be taken down by this horrible virus, anyone can. Yes, he had underlying health issues, but he had a will to live to be with his Rita; and even the powerful Pete couldn’t push through this nightmare. I am asking that everyone continue to wear masks, social distance and get the vaccine when it is your turn. Pete had had his first dose of the vaccine, but it wasn’t enough to keep the virus from killing him. This virus is REAL, it is everywhere and it kills. Even if you don’t want to wear a mask, wear one. Wear one for the person in line next to you at the grocery, wear it for the checkout clerk at Target, wear it for the receptionist at the car repair shop. Wear a mask in memory of my friend Pete. Be generous.