Robin Peterson, longtime principal in Kingsburg, dies

The Fresno BeeJune 18, 2014 

Kingsburg resident Robin Peterson, longtime principal and community member.

COURTESY PHOTO — Special to The Bee

It's no wonder Robin Peterson was named Kingsburg's Citizen of the Year in 1995.

He was known for many things in town, like riding the famous Swedish Jet in parades, being involved in the Evangelical Covenant Church in Kingsburg, lecturing on butterflies and Flag Day in schools and donating 13 gallons of blood throughout his life.

Mr. Peterson, who died Monday at the age of 87, was best known as principal of Lincoln Elementary School.

"There was a sparkle in his eye when he was around the kids," said Bill Pisor, who taught taught third and fourth grades at Lincoln for 30 years and worked under Peterson.

Mr. Peterson grew up in Kingsburg and graduated from Kingsburg High School in 1945. He attended Reedley College and transferred to University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his bachelor's degree in entomology in 1950. He then served in the Marine Corps for two years starting in 1952. Mr. Peterson was stationed in Barstow where he did clerical work during the Korean War.

Mr. Peterson and his first wife, Millie, moved back to Kingsburg in 1954. They had two children, Evan and Lori. Evan Peterson died in 2012.

Mr. Peterson used the G.I. Bill to attend Fresno State and earn his teaching credential. He taught sixth and seventh grades at Roosevelt School in Kingsburg for nine years. While he taught at Roosevelt School, he worked on his master's degree and become principal at Lincoln School starting in 1965 -- a position he held for 23 years.

Pisor remembered the gentle way in which Mr. Peterson gave him the news during school one day that his father passed away. Mr. Peterson took the call from Pisor's mother. "The way he told me came across as calming and helped me get through the loss," Pisor said.

Mr. Peterson stayed connected to Lincoln for years after he retired, Pisor said. For his years of service to the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District, the board signed a resolution Tuesday to rename the Lincoln School library in honor of Mr. Peterson. The resolution noted he was an "advocate of learning through science and reading, tirelessly volunteering during his retirement years..."

"He loved being around the library, and was one of the best at Kingsburg schools," said the school board president, Rev. Edward Ezaki.

One of Mr. Peterson's biggest contributions to Kingsburg schools was the BUG Awards, which stands for Bring Up Grades. It was an award he created through the Kiwanis Club for students who increased two or more letter grades in a report card period. Mr. Peterson and the Kiwanis Club handed out about 150 handmade pins to second through sixth graders at Lincoln, Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan schools.

For the 46 years he was part of the Kiwanis Club, he had perfect attendance, club secretary Pauline Nyberg said. He served as president in 1973.

He also volunteered for many Kiwanis events and projects, including cleaning roadways and working ice cream booths at summer band concerts, said his friend and club member Maury Nyberg, Pauline's husband.

Mr. Peterson was responsible for creating the Kingsburg Kiwanis Club's mascot, Maury Nyberg said. In keeping with Kingsburg's rich Swedish culture, he mounted a wooden doll on a piece of wood and named it Ole Ander, like the popular Swede Ole who figures in jokes about immigrant life.

"He very often had a funny story to tell," Nyberg said. "He was a humorous guy --very delightful to be around."

Like his parents, Mr. Peterson farmed his entire life. He grew grapes, plums and nectarines on 20 acres just outside of town. He was one of the first tree fruit growers for Enns Packing in Dinuba and grew raisins for Sun Maid.

In an autobiographical story about his life, Mr. Peterson said, "During my life, the following promise has always worked out for me. It is found in Romans 8:28: 'All things work together for good for those who love the Lord, for those who are the called according to His purpose.'"

Robin Waldemar Peterson

Born: Jan. 9, 1927

Died: June 16, 2014

Occupation: Retired school principal and farmer

Survived by: Wife Jacquie Peterson; daughter Lori Ewert-Sanders; grandchildren Jonathan, Vanessa, and Diane Ewert and Mark and Matthew Peterson; and great-grandchildren Kamryn Ewert and Brennan DeLong

Visitation: 2-6 p.m. today at Creighton Funeral Home in Kingsburg

Graveside service: 1 p.m. Friday June 20 at the Kingsburg Cemetery

Memorial service: 2 p.m. Friday at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Kingsburg

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6679 or bvaccari@fresnobee.com.

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