James K. Peterson, Sr., age 88, of Brainerd, passed away on March 31, 2012 at his home.
He was born on February 11, 1924 in Brainerd to Peter & Nettie Peterson. James graduated from Washington High School in 1943. He served in the US Army Medical Corps during WWII and the Korean War. He graduated from Brainerd Junior College in 1948 and from the University of Minnesota in 1949 with a B.S. degree and in 1955 with a M.A. degree. James also attended Mankato and Bemidji State Universities. He taught school in Eau Claire, Wis., and Duluth before returning to Brainerd in 1951. He taught at Lowell and Whittier Schools for two years before being appointed elementary principal.
James worked for the Brainerd Schools for 35 years, retiring in 1986.
He married Marjoie Kletschka on October 16, 1948 in Brainerd. James was a member of Bethleham Lutheran Church, American Legion Post #225, Deep Portage Foundation, REAM, R.P.T.P., Crow Wing Historical Society and the Northland Arboretum.
James was the epitome of a good man. He worked hard to ensure that all people were treated with kindness. He devoted his time to his wife and his children whether it be his own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or the children within the Brainerd School District. James, or “Jim,” “Peter,” “little-man-with-a-big-voice,” “1st SGT,” “Mr. P,” “Prin,” “Dad,” “PapaSahn,” “Grandpa,” “Bumpa,” “Bumpie,” “Mawka,” “Papa Ross,” and “SP” earned many terms of endearment and was greatly loved by his family and friends. His grandchildren also referred to him as 37787124, the number assigned to him during the Korean War. The number was engraved in their memory out of love and respect at a young age.
Jim was an extremely organized, thoughtful man. He planned outings with his family’s happiness in mind. He loved treating his grandchildren to a trip to Paul Bunyan at least twice per summer when they were young. He enjoyed allowing his grandchildren to have the opportunity to experience fun along with freedom. He planned several family outings to Itasca State park, which involved renting the largest cabin in the park, the Clubhouse. He rented bikes for those who wished to bike and walked alongside those who chose to walk. He planned the weekend but allowed his family the flexibililty to choose what they wanted to do for fun. He set the stage for his family’s evening. They sang, they danced, they played games. Jim was the center of the family and only thought of how he could make their time more enjoyable.
As an elementary school principal, Jim worked hard to ensure that his students and staff received the best possible care and consideration. Jim believed in positive reinforcement. He rewarded students who showed improvement in their coursework with a trip to the principal’s treat jar. The students would receive a personalized letter of congratulations from the principal and in turn would receive a candy bar and words of praise from their principal. He completed this task without the help of a copy machine, or computer, which meant he spent many hours at home working on this concept (with the help of his wife, Marge). For several years, he was acting principal of three schools. Jim worked long hours at the office and at home to ensure that his students and staff in each schools received the best possible care from one man; he worked 365 days a year. Jim was loved by his students and his staff. When he retired in 1986, his teaching staff threw him a farewell party including a singing telegram and a parade in his honor.
Jim selflessly dedicated his time to the people he loved and in turn his family dedicated their time to the man they loved and will continue to love throughout the rest of their lives. Though the last couple of years were difficult with Jim’s declining health, his adoring wife of 63 years, Marge, continued to work hard to allow her love to have the opportunity to spend his remaining time at home; she helped carry out his last wishes.
Survivors include his wife; Marjorie; one son, James Jr of Baxter; two daughters, Deborah Johnson and Tamara (Dennis) Holland, of Sartell; 11 grandchildren; 10 great grandchildren; one sister, Barbara Johnson, of Brainerd; one brother, Peter, of St. Louis Park.
Preceded in death by his parents; sisters, Gertrude Nelson and Edna Morss; brothers, Richard Peterson and Donald Peterson.
A Private Family Funeral Service will be held. Visitation will be on Tuesday from 4-8 p.m. at Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home. Interment will take place at Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd.
Honorary Pallbearers are Jerry Halvorson, deceased, a Sunday School Teacher; John Garvey, deceased, a childhood friend; Peter Peterson, deceased, a loving, earthly father; Wally Engbretson, deceased, a public school teacher; Melvin Loberg, deceased, a wonderful man; James K. Peterson, Jr., a loving son.
Jim’s family would like to add a special word of thanks to the Good Samaritan’s Society and Barnabas for their assistance and tenderness during a time of great sadness. Thank you for your kindness and care for our Dad, our Bumpie, and our Great-Grandpa.