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Bemidji remembers former mayor Peterson

Members of the Bemidji Fire Department's Honor Guard were casketbearers for Doug Peterson's funeral on Monday afternoon. Peterson was mayor of Bemidji for 25 years and also was a former City Council member and volunteer firefighter. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
Mike Cudmore shared some light-hearted memories at the funeral of his friend, former longtime Bemidji mayor Doug Peterson, on Monday afternoon at United Methodist Church. (Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- Family and friends gathered Monday to honor the life of Doug Peterson, Bemidji’s mayor for more than a quarter of a century.

Peterson died May 6 at the age of 75 following a battle with cancer. Peterson served as mayor of Bemidji from 1975-2000, and also was a past City Council member.

Monday’s well-attended service at United Methodist Church began with the Bemidji Fire Department Honor Guard carrying Peterson’s flag-draped casket into the church sanctuary. Several other BFD members were also in the audience to pay respects to their comrade, a volunteer firefighter for many years.

In addition to his service as mayor and as a firefighter, Peterson was also a Mason and sat on the board of directors for the American Red Cross. The hymns and gospel readings at his funeral were simple, traditional and befitting a man of the people: Psalm 23, “How Great Thou Art”, Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 and John 14:1-6.

Friends who shared memories with the audience included Mike Cudmore of Cease Family Funeral Home, who came to know Peterson when the latter was a salesman for Little Falls Granite Works and would sell headstones to Cudmore.

“I used to call him ‘Tombstone Peterson’”, Cudmore joked. “He liked it, too, I think.”

The two ate lunch together every Thursday for 34 years, Cudmore said (Peterson was particularly fond of the Scandinavian potato klub at Angelina's Supper Club in Bagley, Minn.). Once, when Cudmore was Bagley’s fire chief, a page for a serious auto crash interrupted their lunch and Peterson got to help out: his car was pressed into service as an ambulance.

“He felt pretty good about that,” Cudmore recalled.   

Before the casket was taken out of the sanctuary for the burial in Greenwood Cemetery, Peterson’s family held a “ribbon cutting” where Pastor Gay Albers cut a red, white and blue ribbon with an oversized pair of scissors. The moment, she said, was to honor both Peterson service’s as mayor for a third of his lifetime, and to commemorate his passage into the next phase of his journey.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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