Summit remembers Dr. Pete, former historical society president and renowned physician
Dr. Walter “Pete” Peterson, a renowned gastroenterologist and former Breckenridge resident for several years, died last Thursday, Aug. 6, in Houston after a long battle with Progressive Supernuclear Palsy (PSP), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. A passionate but pragmatic researcher, he dedicated his time to the Summit County community in 2007 as president of the Summit Historical Society.
“He was a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant man,” said Rick Hague, a friend of Peterson’s, and a board member with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and the Summit Historical Society.
He added that, during his term as president, Peterson suggested minimizing the society’s hard assets, including historical properties, in order to maximize the nonprofit’s small budget.
“His thinking was that considering the thin finances of the society, they really didn’t have the resources to maintain the sites,” Hague said.
While Peterson did not achieve this during his one-year term as president, it set the tone for future property sales. For example, Slate Creek Hall, a historical building located far north of Silverthorne, was entrusted to Friends of the Lower Blue.
“Every president in the last 15 years has wrestled with what to do with that property because it’s just so far out in the middle of nowhere,” Hague said. “We were looking to put them in better hands who could afford to maintain them.”
Outside of his term as president, Peterson still showed up regularly to assist with volunteer projects for both the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and the Summit Historical Society. His wife, Linda Kay, was very active with the historical society and may have sparked that interest.
Kay’s gregariousness balanced Peterson’s studious nature.
“He was a very, very serious guy,” Hague said. “He wasn’t a small talker.”
A professor Emeritus at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Paterson also taught part time at the University of Colorado Medical School in Denver. The son of an army surgeon, he devoted his life to research, studying the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers — the same research that brought two Australian researchers a Nobel Prize in 2005.
Peterson also founded his own company, EBMed (Evidence-Based Medicine), in which he and his partners gave expert medical testimony in court cases.
“In his field, he was quite a well-known guy and highly respected,” Hague said. “He was a fellow in the Royal Society of Medicine in London. That’s the level he was on.”
However, Peterson never let the technicalities of his research obstruct his view of his ultimate goal: to improve human lives. In a previous interview with the Summit Daily News, he noted, “That’s the art of medicine: to use science but also to remember that you’re dealing with human beings.”
Outside of his research, he enjoyed hiking, cross-country skiing and engaged conversation. Hague noted that Peterson especially enjoyed talking about local history and world affairs.
Peterson is survived by his wife, three sons and five grandchildren. The family has requested that memorials be sent to CurePSP.org or the Abandoned Animal Rescue of Tomball at aartomball.org.
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