Summit Old-Timers: Jerry and Sue Peterson
December 3, 2005
For Dillon residents Jerry and Sue Peterson, leaving Minnesota to come to Colorado was a pretty easy decision.”The last January we were there, we never once saw the sun,” said Jerry. “And the temperature never rose above zero.”That was January, 1963. In May, they moved to Dillon, where they bought a quarter-acre lot on Tenderfoot Street and Jerry opened up his dentistry practice in the back room of Gambels Hardware. “I was somewhere between the crescent wrenches and the monkey wrenches,” said Jerry. “There were only about 59 people living in town then.”Jerry was born in Minneapolis, Minn. to Earl and Amy Peterson on July 11, 1937. His father was a plumber and spent some time working on the Alcan Highway between the lower 48 states and Alaska. Jerry grew up with an older brother, Jim. He remembers a happy childhood of riding bikes, building forts and skiing. “There was a golf course with about a 200-foot hill,” he said. “We thought that was pretty big.”He graduated from Robbinsdale High School in 1955, then went to the University of Minnesota, where he studied pre-dentistry. He said a physics teacher talked him into the field.
“I liked science and working with my hands,” he said Friday from his Tenderfoot home. “And besides that, your patients don’t die.”During school, he was also in an Air Force Flight Line and Fire Rescue Reserve Unit. “It was during the Berlin blockade and the Cuban missile crisis,” said Jerry. “I thought I would be called up, but never was.”He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1961.Sue was born in Minneapolis on April 23, 1936, the only child of Lorin and Helen Hargrove. Her father made and sold imitation vanilla, soda fountain syrups and nectar, until he sold the business to Skippy Peanut Butter.She also remembers a happy childhood growing up in the Midwest – riding bikes and playing with friends.She graduated from Hopkins High School in 1954, then went to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. and studied liberal arts. She later transferred to the University of Minnesota, where she studied elementary education and graduated with a teaching certificate in 1958.The couple met during Sue’s last quarter of school, when the two began carpooling.
“Parking was so limited,” said Sue of the university’s campus. “I had to take three buses to get to school, so I put my name on a carpooling list.”Jerry said he charged her 25 cents a day to take her to and from school. He was driving “a pretty tired old ’47 Chrysler coupe.””He was very quiet, but very nice,” said Sue. “He asked me to his formal (she was tied up, however), and I asked him to a friend’s party.”After Sue graduated, she moved to California, where she taught school in south Whittier for two years. The couple corresponded by writing letters. “It was too expensive to talk on the phone,” said Jerry.When Sue returned to Minnesota, the two spent more time together and married on July 14, 1961.Jerry had come out to Colorado to visit his friend, Steve Rieschl, who was attending Western State College in Gunnison. He spent two quarters there, before he went broke and returned to Minnesota.It gave him a taste for High Country living, however, and after the couple got married, they moved to Steamboat Springs for a year and a half. There Jerry worked with the resident dentist and also in a satellite office in Kremmling. Though they liked the community, Jerry didn’t want to continue there and they came to Dillon on the advice of a Dr. Ceriani, who was an esteemed medical doctor living and working in Kremmling.
“When we moved here, we said we would give it five years and see if we could make ends meet,” said Jerry. “But I tell people after five years we didn’t have enough money to fix the car, so we stayed.”They had two children – Lori, who is married and is a nurse living in Park City, Utah; and Scott, who is also married and is a an event coordinator at Soldier Hollow where the 2002 Olympic Nordic races were hosted. “It was a nice life for them,” said Sue, about raising their children in Summit County. Both graduated from Summit High and were heavily involved in skiing.Jerry, who built a very successful dental practice and became president of the Colorado Dental Association during 2003-2004, now is retired – working occasionally one day a week at Summit Dental Group.Over the years he was instrumental in starting the ambulance service and helped create Lake Dillon Fire Rescue.The couple has lived in the same house for 41 years, and now have three grandchildren: Leah, Wyatt and Zoe.