Walter George Peterson Jr. was born in Panama on November 23,1941 to Walter George Sr. and Dorothy Irma (Eder) Peterson.
Affectionately known as "Skipper", he had a wonderful childhood growing up in the Panama Canal Zone with his family and friends, often recalling throughout his life the adventures he experienced there. He liked to tease his family with stories of how he grew up in the jungle and got to school by swinging from vines. His close and extended family all worked for The Panama Canal and Walter enjoyed attending reunions and keeping up with that close-knit group of people who lived and worked there. In 1989, Walter attended a Panama Canal reunion event in Tampa, Florida and it was remarkable to see people recognize him from his childhood after being away for such a long period of time.
Walter had an older sister, Diane Carol, and a younger brother, Richard “Rick” Wayne.
Walter's mother died when he was very young. His dad eventually met and married Margery Ann (Pender), who was a traveling teacher working in the canal zone.
The family moved to Binghamton, NY where they lived for two years before moving to Miramar, FL.
They had a daughter, Nancy Ann. Nancy remembers as a little girl when kids picked on her, she would show them Walt’s shoes and say, "My big brother will beat you up!" and they would run for the hills, or at least the end of the block!
Walter attended McArthur High School in Hollywood, Florida, and it was there that he met Gloria Tara Geise. A close high school friend remembers Walt as tanned, very tall, and lanky; a terrific basketball player (center), with slicked back hair, as was the style back then. He was all elbows, long legs, big hands, and he always smiled. Despite his height and obvious strength, he had a wonderful sweetness about him. The phrase attached to his yearbook photo is "Thou art a fellow of good respect."
After graduating from high school in 1960, Walter was offered several scholarships to play basketball for NCAA Division 1 schools. However, he wanted to serve his country and joined the United States Air Force. He trained as an electrician and was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Maria, California, where he worked with missle tracking systems.
Gloria joined Walter in Santa Maria, where they were married and had the first of two sons, Donn Garret.
Walter was honorably discharged from the US Air Force and moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he began his career with the Telephone Company. He fell in love with Sonoma County; the peace and happiness he found would keep him there for the rest of his days.
His second son, Paul Gregory was born shortly thereafter in Santa Rosa.
Walter and Gloria were married for ten years, and then divorced.
Walter met Carolyn Sharon Plumlee in Santa Rosa. They were married in 1975 and that began a partnership that lasted for the remainder of his life.
Walter adored his stepchildren Janet Elizabeth and James Lee, adopting Janet as his first and only daughter when she was very young. Walter doted on his little girl and they shared a special bond that a father has with his daughter.
Together, Walter and Carolyn raised their family, first in Santa Rosa, and then in Sebastopol. During this time, Walter worked with the Telephone Company (Bell Systems - AT&T) until it was split-up into separate companies in the mid 1980's. Shortly thereafter, he retired and began working as a contractor for Pacific Bell. Walter’s contract work continued for the next 16 years, when he finally retired permanently from service with the Telephone Company and its subsidiaries. From 1965 to 2000, Walter served for over 35 years providing telephone service and infrastructure to the Northern California region. At his retirement, a coworker shared this heartfelt comment about Walter… “You have provided strong leadership to this organization. You will be missed - we are still searching for an able replacement. Expect we may see you from time to time. Best wishes in your retirement from Pacific Bell and good luck with your new adventures.”
Walter loved his family and was a wonderful father, grandfather, great grandfather, and husband. He was affectionately known as “Pete” by his close friends and was a gentle giant of a man who was loving, easy-going, hard working, and deeply committed to his family and those he cared about. While he was dedicated and provided a lifetime of service to the Telephone Company, his true passion was his dog. He had several over the years and especially loved Labrador Retrievers. After he retired, his favorite activities included playing with his dogs, fixing them gourmet meals, giving them treats, just sitting with them, or going to the dog park to watch them play. He also enjoyed visiting with his neighbor and good friend, Efton Holben.