W.P. “Pete” Peterson

Willard P. “Pete” Peterson, formerly of Mercer Island, died on June 26, at Overlake Hospital.

Willard P. “Pete” Peterson, formerly of Mercer Island, died on June 26, at Overlake Hospital.

Born on March 23, 1923, Mr. Peterson grew up in Linesville, Pa., and attended Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., before joining the Army Air Force in 1942, the year of his marriage. He met his future wife during a summer job at Conneaut Lake Park, Pa., where Helen’s parents owned the Hotel Elmwood. Blessed with a ready sense of humor, Mr. Peterson was fond of saying he married the boss’s daughter.

During WWII, Mr. Peterson served as a pilot, based in China as part of the China-Burma-India Hump Pilots, who flew historically dangerous missions over the Himalayas to keep supply and troop lines open to China when all ground routes were blocked by Japanese forces. With over 600 combat flight hours, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After WWII, he returned to civilian life but remained in the Air Force Reserves, flying support missions in both the Korean and Vietnam wars until his retirement with the rank of Major in 1968. He accrued over 8,500 flight hours during his career as a pilot.

Maintaining a lifelong love of aviation, Mr. Peterson worked as a civilian flight instructor for the Air Force in Mississippi and Florida before joining the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1959 as an Air Safety Investigator. Based in Kansas City from 1959 to 1970, he was promoted to Bureau Chief of the Miami office (then the National Transportation Safety Board) and transferred to Seattle in 1972, where he served as Bureau Chief until his retirement in 1983. Mr. Peterson maintained his own safety consulting business for several years afterward.

Mr. and Mrs. Peterson settled on Mercer Island and remained there for over 30 years until ill health forced them to relocate to care facilities. They had been married for over 65 years when Helen passed away in January 2008. The couple will be laid to rest in Linesville, Pa., alongside several generations of their respective families.

Mr. Peterson will be remembered with love for his devotion and generosity to family and friends, dedication and enduring contributions to aviation safety, and courageous service to his country.

Mr. Peterson was preceded in death by his wife, Helen. He is survived by his three children, Gary Peterson of Mercer Island, Paul Peterson of Agua Dulce, Calif., and Susan Peterson of Tarzana, Calif.; two grandchildren, Apryl Prose of Malibu, Calif., and Emmett Rensin of Tarzana, Calif.; great-granddaughter, Wylie Anderson of Malibu, Calif.; and his sister, Jeanette Edwards of Mesa, Ariz. A memorial service will be held in Linesville, Pa., at a later date.