Dr. John L. Peterson, 89

OSWEGO, NY – John LeBlair Peterson, Ed.D, 89, of Santa Maria Calif., formerly of Rockingham, Vermont, and Oswego, passed away on Friday August 5, 2016, surrounded by his family and friends.

Dr. John L. Peterson
Dr. John L. Peterson

He is survived by his loving wife and companion of 59 years, Madeleine Homond Peterson, also of Santa Maria; daughters, Elizabeth (Tom) Plymale of Arroyo Grande, Calif., and Polly (Mike) Boldt of Marilla, NY.

John was very proud and devoted to his five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and 12 nieces and nephews.

John was born June 18, 1927, in Hollister, Calif., to Leslie Andrew Peterson and Gladys Lenore Nicholson.

His grandparents were early Santa Maria Valley pioneers and John spent his youth living and farming in the Sisquoc area with his eight siblings, Phyllis “Nonie” Arbuckle, Patricia “Pat” Arbuckle, Kathleen “Betty” Arbuckle, Doris “Dolly” Rita Marie Peterson, Samuel “Sam” Peterson, David “Dave” Peterson, Patience “Tippy” Lenore Peterson.

He was preceded by all of his siblings except for James “Jim” Matthew Peterson of Dayton, Wash.

John graduated in 1945 from Santa Maria High School and at 17 years old enlisted in the United States Navy to serve his country during World War II.

After completing all of his basic training he was preparing for overseas duty when the war ended with Japan.

He left the service in 1946 and returned to school as a student at Allen Hancock College in Santa Maria.

John attended and graduated from the Hill and Canyon School of Art in Santa Fe, NM in 1949.

From there to San Jose State College to attain his Bachelor of Arts in Art Education in 1956.

In 1960, he attended Indiana University to work on his MS degree and again in 1970 where he received his Doctorate degree in Education.

His teaching career took him from Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Ca lif., in 1956-58 and on to SUNY Oswego, from 1960-63.

He moved to Whitewater Wisc., where he taught at the State University of Wisconsin from 1967-70.

He returned to SUNY Oswego in 1970 to teach in the field of Visual Communications and raise his family until his retirement in 1991.

John was an active outdoorsman and nature lover.

He was active in environmental groups and in the 1970s spearheaded “Save Our Shores” in Oswego, which led to the present day recreational and fishing development at Breitbeck Park and Wright’s Landing.

John and his wife, Madeleine, built their retirement home on 26 acres in Rockingham, Vermont, and hosted many memorable family vacations and holidays there.

John was Dean and Trustee at the United Church of Christ in Oswego and a member of the United Church of Christ in Bellows Falls, Vermont.

They left New England in 2001 and returned to the Central Coast of California.

John was a master artist and craftsman who worked in all mediums, from sketches to watercolors, oils and acrylics to carving and sculpture.

The homes of his family and friends are adorned with his work; his vision and legacy will live on.

There was nothing he couldn’t do!

John was adored by his family for his amazing intellect, quick wit, sense of humor and tremendously charitable nature.

His two sons-in-law, Mike and Tom, became his sons and his loss is just as great for them.

A small service to celebrate John’s life will be held on August 12 at 11 a.m. at Merrill Gardens in Santa Maria.

The family asks if anyone would like to make a donation to please consider the National Parks Conservation Association or the Salvation Army.

The family also would like to express appreciation to the residents and staff at Merrill Gardens and Dignity Health Hospice.


  1. Dr. Peterson was a great instructor in a variety of subjects, but I remember most my Fall semester 1972/73…lick’em stick’em was not as easy as it sounds, and I felt for all the students who signed up because it sounded like it was!

    I still pass your home and think of it as Dr. Peterson’s house even though it’s not the same color…it still has the same flavor! ;0)

    RIP… many of us remember YOU as part of our personal ‘histories!’

    God bless, YOUR legacy (your children and grandchildren, but also all those students!).

    Debbie ’73/’97

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