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Gordon Kermit Peterson

February 23, 1933 - June 18, 2020

Gordon Kermit PatersonDr.Gordon Peterson, 87, passed away at his home in Salem on June 18.  He was born February 23, 1933 in Flandreau, SD to Kermit and Grace Peterson. He grew up in Fargo,ND, attending Fargo High School.  After graduation he spent one year at North Dakota State University then transferred to the University of North Dakota to complete his undergraduate degree.  He was accepted into Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, IL.  He supported himself by holding down three jobs and driving for an ambulance service at night.  To reduce his living expenses he lived in a hospital with several roommates.  He loved to regale his family with stories of their antics - it wasn't always hard work!  He first experienced the Pacific Northwest in high school while on a church youth group trip, and decided to pursue his Internal Medicine residency at the Mason Clinic in Seattle. While there he met and married Tellelyn Hoffman. Following his residency, the couple moved to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, NM.  Gordon became the Chief of Hospital Services, earning the rank of Captain.  The couple settled in Salem in 1963, where he joined the Salem Clinic and retired as partner and Medical Director after more than 30 years of service.  He served as President of the Salem Hospital Board for a term and strongly advocated for the addition of a heart surgery unit as well as local cobalt treatments for cancer patients, believing Salem area residents should not have to travel to Portland for their care.  As a physician, he was an early pioneer in the use of Vitamin B-12 and derived great satisfaction from the positive impact it had on his patients.  Gordon was a man of faith, caring for the whole person and their spiritual health.  He would often be found praying with patients in his office and at their bedsides. His other life-long passion was “cowboying”, both at his farm in the Macleay area and helping friends herd cattle on ranches in Central Oregon. Gordon and Tellelyn lived in the same home for 50 years, raising their three beloved daughters and thoroughly enjoying country life. Gordon was dedicated to reaching kids, serving on the Salem Young Life committee for over 20 years.  In the later years of his life he attended an annual retreat at Mount Angel Abbey, developing deep bonds with friends he met there.   After Tellelyn passed he was blessed to meet and marry the second love of his life, Judy Smallwood Peterson.  Their shared love for Jesus, music, and laughter brought great joy and contentment for both.  In addition to Tellelyn, Gordon was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Audrey Swenson. “Papa” is greatly missed! He is survived by his daughters Kirsten Pribilsky (Kevin) of Batavia, IL; Sonya Penner (Roger) of Seattle, WA; and Marni Scofield (Eric) of Colorado Springs, CO.  Grandchildren are Stefan, Tanner, Ethan and Greta Pribilsky; Lacey, Audrey and Maureen Penner; and Hudson and Charlie Scofield.  A memorial gathering will be held at a future date due to current Covid-19 restrictions.  Donations in his memory may be made to Salem Young Life and Mt. Angel Abbey Guesthouse: 1 Abbey Dr, Saint Benedict, OR 97373

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So very sorry to hear this. Comforted to know he had a good life up to the end. So appreciative we had the chance to see him at Doug's wedding a year ago! Prayers for all the cousins and grandkids.

Gordon was like a second father to me. He joked about how we looked alike kidding with me that I was really a Peterson. When Gordon and I were in a crowd we would catch one another's eye and immediately big grins would appear on both our faces, like we were family. I came to know Gordon around 1978 when I ended up in Jr High with his middle daughter Sonya and youngest daughter Marni. Then onto high school with Kirsten, Sonya and Marni. Every chance I got, I would head out to the Peterson home where Gordon, Tellelyn and the girls welcomed me in with some of their famous Peterson sweet ice tea. Whatever was in that tea, I still don't know, but it was a favorite of Gordon and certainly a favorite of mine.

One summer I joined the family at Black Butte Ranch. When Gordon wasn't in doctor mode, his passion was his family first and playing cowboy second. So while on vacation, Gordon asked me to go for a ride up to the top of Black Butte. Well, it just so happened that there was still snow up at the top and it covered the trail. At some points I was sure the horse was going to stumble sending us down the steep hillside. I was petrified and yet I had all the confidence in Gordon - if it was unsafe we wouldn't be there. We managed the danger ok and got back down to even ground. Gordon then wanted to race back to the stables, which we did. That evening and thereafter, Gordon would say, "yea we should never have done that" and laugh about it. Many summer days were spent out at the Peterson ranch. Some working as a handyman fixing just about everything. Gordon and Tellelyn would give me a list in the morning and I'd work through them until done. Those of you who knew Gordon like I did, know that although Gordon was the greatest man in the world, he struggled to be able to fix anything, other than people. It made our relationship work.

Some of my fondest memories are visiting with Gordon and family around Christmas time. They always had these great big trees in the living room. When you came to visit the Petersons, you were instantly the center of attention. In the summer, Gordon showed a bunch of us high schoolers how to toss grapes up in the air so high you couldn't see them and then catch them in your mouth on the way down. Gordon was the champ at that game and we all had a blast.

Over the years we saw each other at weddings, funerals and less frequent stop ins at the farm.  Fast forwarding to Christmas 2018, my wife, Theresa and I brought homemade caramel corn to Gordon and Judy at their Capital Manor home and had a great visit. Yes, Gordon gave me the look, a giant hug and preached to us about the benefits of vitamin B-12.

He will be forever in my thoughts. Literally daily as I now take B-12.  I'll think of him riding his horse, dressed like a cowboy in never ending pastures. Sending my love to the family.

Gordon was a Partner with me at the Salem Clinic for many years. He also saw me some before my retirement for medical care. It was always a pleasure to work with him, including in his role as Medical Director for the clinic. I was also aware that Mt. Angel Abbey was a special place for him. I have appreciated my time with him over the years. Many thanks for his years of service.
Dr. Don Orwick