Hermosa Beach’s oldest Rotarian Bob Peterson lays down his horn at age 99

by Ralph Doyle

Bob Peterson played the French Horn with the Beach Cities Symphony during its first rehearsal in 1950. He also played with the symphony durings its last, pre-Pandemic concert, in November 2019, at age 99. Peterson played the French Horn for over 90 years. His boys marching band performed for the Los Angeles Olympics Opening Ceremonies in 1932.

Peterson passed away on March 5, one month short of his 100th birthday, at his daughter Jean’s Redondo Beach home. 

Robert (Bob) LaMar Peterson was born in Los Angeles, on April 9, 1921 to Giselle and Edgar Peterson. He attended Fremont High School and Los Angeles City College. In 1940, shortly before joining the U.S. Coast Guard, he met AdaBelle Smith at a Methodist Youth Group. The couple married in 1942, on his first day of leave from the U.S. Coast Guard station on Terminal Island. But he was soon sent to MIT to be trained as a LORAN (Long Range Navigation) operator.

He spent the last 14 months of the European war stationed on a small peninsula in Greenland, sending navigational LORAN signals to Allied ships transiting the North Atlantic. While the isolation had a profound impact on him, he said he was one of a fortunate few WWII veterans who never heard a gun fired in anger.

Audrie Wing and Bob Peterson. 

Upon discharge, Peterson returned home to be reintroduced to his daughter, Jean, whom he had not seen since her birth. His father-in-law helped him find a job at the Los Angeles Examiner, where he took over publishing a house-organ for the paper’s delivery boys. In 1948, he was offered the newspaper’s distribution dealership in the South Bay, and moved to Hermosa Beach with his family, which now included son Steve, as well as Jean.

He managed over 80 young boys, from El Porto to Palos Verdes

In 1950, Peterson joined Hermosa Beach Rotary, where he remained an active member until his passing. From about 1980 until 2018, he and fellow Rotarian Mick Felder delivered Meals on Wheels for the Salvation Army every Tuesday. Their deliveries ended when Felder died in a motorcycle accident, at age 83. “Mick always drove,” Peterson, who was then 97, said following the loss of his friend. 

He was a Board Member of the Redondo Beach Salvation Army for many years. 

The First United Methodist Church in Redondo Beach also played a key role in Peterson’s life, from the time his young family joined in the 1950s. He became one of its lay leaders and the Church family gave him warm support and strength over the years.

Peterson’s second career began in 1971, when fellow church member Ron Day asked him to become White & Day Mortuary’s general manager at their Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, His business acumen and compassionate nature made him well suited for counseling grieving families. He retired after 20 years.

Bob Peterson with his family.

Peterson is preceded in death by his sister Marjorie Peterson, wife AdaBelle, and grandson Jeffrey Dorler. He is survived by his daughter Jean Chamberlin and husband John Delaney, son Steve Peterson and wife Julia Fretschl, grandson Eric Dorler and wife Danielle, granddaughter Rachael Thompson and husband Tim, grandson Cory Peterson and wife Reyna, along with four great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Also greatly missing him is the second love of his life, Audrie Wing.

Because of COVID restrictions, services will be private. Those who wish to honor Peterson are encouraged to give to his favorite charities: the Rotary Club of Hermosa Beach Foundation (hermosabeachrotary.org), The Beach Cities Symphony Association (beachcitiessymphony.org), the First United Methodist Church of Redondo Beach (fumcrb. org), the Salvation Army Redondo Beach (redondobeach. salvationarmy.org). ER



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