James Ole Peterson

MIDDLETON-James Ole Peterson, 92, passed away peacefully March 27, 2014 at the Waunakee Manor.

James was born on March 4, 1922, the third of five children of Lawrence and Loretta (Leary) Peterson of Soldiers Grove. He attended Soldiers Grove High School and played in the State Basketball Tournament in 1940. He also attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and was selected for Officer Training School. Jim served as an M.P. Commander in General Patton's 3rd Army and at the Nuremburg War Crime Trials. After the war he finished BA degrees in History and Economics at Loras and an MA in Political Science from UW LaCrosse. On June 17, 1947, James married his high school sweetheart Mary Ruth McDonald at St. Phillip's Catholic Church in Rolling Ground. After teaching and coaching at St. Catherine's High School in Racine they moved to Prairie du Chien where Mr. Peterson had a 20 year career at Campion Jesuit High School. Along with his teaching duties he coached every sport and was the Athletic Director for 16 years while his teams won numerous conference championships.  He also served on the Crawford County Board for 8 years and was elected County Board Chairman 1968-70. Mr. Peterson was appointed Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Dept. by Gov. Patrick Lucey in 1971 and the family moved to Middleton. During his tenure, he implemented tougher standards for used cars, served as Commissioner of the State Patrol, and was nationally recognized for relentless work to improve school bus safety. In 2010 Mr. Peterson received the Wisconsin Veteran Lifetime Achievement Award honoring exemplary service in the military, as a veteran, and as a United States citizen.

For over 40 years Mr. Peterson has served the St. Bernard's Catholic Parish in Middleton in a variety of lay pastoral capacities and since his retirement in 1983, has served at daily mass.

James Ole was preceded in death by his precious first born son Michael Thomas on July 28, 2012. Additionally his parents, Lawrence and Loretta; parents-in-law, George and Annie McDonald; brother, Paul (Virginia Bohonek); sister, Delores (Howard Fergot); sisters-in-law, Anita Helgerson and Lillian Peterson and brother-in-law, Ron Goulet. He is survived by Mary Ruth, his adored wife of nearly 67 years; daughter-in-law, Jane Randall; sons, Mark (Marla), Stephen (Jackie), Donald, and Daniel (Lisa); daughters, Sara Dalsin (James), Jenni Stoughton (Owen), and Ellen Peterson; 13 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; brother, Robert (Barb Thies) of Viroqua; sister Joan Goulet of Kokomo, In., and brother-in-law, Herb Helgerson of Soldiers Grove.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at ST. BERNARD'S CATHOLIC CHURCH, 7450 University Ave., Middleton at 11:00 AM on Wednesday April 2, 2014 with Monsignor Douglas Dushack presiding. Interment with full military rites accorded will be held in Sunset Memory Gardens, Madison.

Visitation will be held on Wednesday from 9:00 AM until the time of the service at the church. The family wishes to extend a special thank you to Bobbie Hale and Terri Patwell, N.P. and to the staff of Waunakee Manor for their loving and respectful care of James O. and Mary Ruth.

Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson West
Funeral & Cremation Care
7435 University Avenue

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