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Donald R. Peterson, 1929-2021


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Long-time CCCA member Donald R. Peterson passed away peacefully this morning at age 92. He was well-known to many CCCA members due to his 60+ year membership in the club and his record level of participation in the CCCA CARavans.

One of the nicest people in the world of collector cars as well as the father of West (the editor of the Antique Automobile), Wyatt, Webster, Winston, and Ryan, most of whom are avid collectors themselves.

I know I will miss him terribly, as we were close friends for nearly 50 years.

 

Please keep the extended Peterson family in your prayers.

 

Here's one of my favorite pictures of Don with his Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio in the mid-fifties.

don.bug.jpg

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Don was a true gentleman. One of the most enthusiastic and sincere car people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was kind and generous with his time to me when I was only a teenager in the CCCA. I shall always remember him for his smile. My most sincere sympathy and condolences to his family. 

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I am sorry to hear this. He was an interesting and nice man. I got a chance to meet him in 2008. I was scheduled to meet West in person for the first on the showfield in Melbourne Florida, at the Annual Grand National. As I was driving my 1929 Model A Ford Phaeton (which was going for Senior Grand National that day) on the way from the trailer parking area to the showfield, an older gentleman proceeded to stick out his thumb to hitch a ride.  Being concerned about any speck of dirt in the car that day at that Grand National, I momentarily thought about ignoring him and continuing to drive but I stopped. He asked for a ride to the showfield, so I invited him to get in. We had a nice conversation, in which he mentioned his son being West Peterson. I told him that I was supposed to meet West on the showfield, so he pulled out his cell phone and called West and had West meet us in Class 21A which made it really easy to find West. West later told me that his father had a habit of picking out a car that he liked and hitching a ride to the showfield in the car. I was flattered. I am really sorry to hear of his death. 

 

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Here's part of the text I posted to my Facebook page regarding Don's passing...

 

"Just heard one of my dearest friends in all the world passed away about 30 mins ago, Donald R. Peterson, 92, of Roswell, GA. We were friends for almost 50 years, but he was much more than that. He was my best man at my wedding in 1977. We worked together several times, most notably as the editorial team that started Car Collector magazine in 1978. We traveled together many times, in old cars and new. Truthfully, he was a surrogate father to me, too. 

A car collector's car collector, perhaps the only person who has ever held 60-year continuous memberships in both the Classic Car Club of America and the Antique Autombile Club of America."

 

I have so many great stories I could tell about our long friendship...

 

Here's just one. He invited me to accompany him on the 1979 (?) Pocono Glidden Tour in his Packard 734 Speedster boat tail and we stayed at the host hotel, the now-gone Buck Hill Falls Inn. What I remember best, along with all the famous CCCA members he introduced me to during the tour, was him teaching me the proper way to shave with a razor. It's something I was never able to learn from my bio-dad, who passed when I was quite young.

What an honor to have been Don's friend!

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Although I knew of Donald Peterson for years from his editorship of the Car Classic magazine and long CCCA membership, I only met him in person once briefly.  It was during Hershey some years ago in the SAH tent where we engaged in conversation about the Packard 734.   His ownership of the 'Jepson' Speedster runabout well known, I had to ask if he had knowledge of the alleged thirteen 734 chassis that received custom bodies.   He mentioned certain cars were thought to have been but conclusive proof was elusive.  In the few minutes of conversation I had with him, I quickly perceived he was clearly a passionate and committed automotive historian always ready and glad to engage in discussions about any aspect of that fascinating subject.   I count our brief encounter as a treasured memory.

 

My sincere condolences to West and all his family members.

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Don was a true gentleman. My condolences to West, Wyatt, Webster, Winston, and Ryan.

I had the pleasure of sitting, chatting, and hoisting a few each year at Hershey Hotel, and marvel at his stories, experiences, and knowledge, as well as his willingness to share.

Don's quick smile and wit, as well as his passion for our hobby are truly memorable.

 

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Donald Robert Peterson, 92

April 1, 1929 – September 16, 2021

 

Donald Peterson died peacefully at his home in Roswell, Georgia, at the age of 92. He was born in Sandstone, Minnesota to Martin Theodore and Margaret Mildred Peterson (née Dezell). Upon graduating from Maynard High School, he served in the U.S. Navy (1946-47) as a communications specialist aboard the U.S.S. Iowa (BB-61). Don attended the University of Minnesota from 1947-1950, then transferred to Gustavus Adolphus College, where he graduated with a B.S. degree in business. He married the former Lois Ruth Taylor in 1952, accepted a position with Prudential as an underwriter, and moved to Golden Valley, Minnesota, while welcoming five sons into their home by 1961 (Wyatt, Winston, Whitney, Westley, and Webster). After purchasing a small community bank in Western Minnesota, Don moved his family to Murdock in 1967, where he became a city councilman, and was elected mayor in 1972.

 

Don was devoted to the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) becoming a lifelong member starting in 1954 and later serving on the Club’s national board of directors for 12 years. In 1962 and ’63, he served as the director of the CCCA’s Upper Midwest Region (UMR), leading the region from last to first for the CCCA Bigelow Trophy (overall club participation and performance), a reign that lasted for seven of the next ten years. He got his start in automotive magazine production as editor of the UMR’s Windshield Post from 1961 to 1963, winning the club’s Turnquist Trophy for the best regional magazine all three years, a publication that then went on to win the award eight out of the next ten years. In 1965, the CCCA instituted its Citation for Distinguished Service, and Peterson was proud to accept the first award (along with Gordon Maynard of California).

 

In 1974, Don left his beloved Minnesota and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he met and married the former Edie Tannenbaum. Together, they raised their son, Ryan, who was born in 1986. In 1977, Don was hired as the first editor of Car Collector magazine, a position he held for 14 years, and a magazine for which he became half owner, ultimately selling it in the mid-1990s. He started his own automotive appraisal business in 1974, Classic Car Appraisal Service, which he continued to run with four of his sons right up to his death.

 

For Don, traveling was always on the forefront of his mind. If he wasn’t on tour with a Classic automobile, he was traveling overseas with family and friends to some 146 countries, covering all seven continents. He boasted of driving an estimated two million miles during his excursions, more than 300,000 of them in collector cars. His favorite trip in a Classic car was in 1995, during the CCCA Coast-to-Coast Caravan, Don – along with a change of passengers between sons Wyatt and Ryan, and his wife, Edie – drove his 1930 Packard 734 Speedster on a one-month tour around the U.S. (most of the way without a support vehicle or fellow compatriots), putting tire to pavement in 48 states and adding almost 10,000 miles to the car’s odometer.

 

Don is survived by his wife, Edie; brother Jerry; sons Wyatt (Mercea), Winston (Mary Jo), Westley (Laura), Webster (Kari), and Ryan; six grandsons; and 11 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son, Whitney.

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My condolences to the Peterson family.

 

As others have stated, thankfully, there are descendants who have carried on where he left off in the vintage car fraternity.  I wish more sons and daughters were so dedicated to their father's hobby and interests.

 

Craig

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  • 2 weeks later...

Before this thread goes dormant, I want to relate one of my favorite Don Peterson stories.

Some years ago, Don was at the Pebble Beach concours (he was likely there as a judge, but I don't know that for certain). Don and one of his friends (whose name I either forgot or never knew) were looking at the Duesenbergs entered in the show. Don's friend looked up and said, "Hey, Don, there's Jay Leno," who owns a couple of Dueseys himself. "Have you met him?" Don indicated he had not so his friend grabbed him by the arm and led him toward Jay. "Well, let me introduce you."

 

"Jay, I want to introduce you to my good friend, Donald R. Peterson, of Roswell, Georgia."

Jay's eyes lit up and he exclaimed, "Hey, I know who you are... you're West's father!" 

Of course, Jay had come to know West through of his fine stewardship of the Antique Automobile and they had probably also become acquainted at more than one show both attended and/or judged.

Don didn't tell that story often but when he did, it was very clear he very much enjoyed having been recognized as West's father.

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He was a great guy. I live near him and a few years ago he invited me and my wife over to see his cars. The ones I remember most were the Packard Boat Tail and the custom Hudson. He will be missed. I think everyone would want to hear more stories. 

 

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Facing a busy weekend but I'll post a couple more when I can. Thanks for the interest.

 

Vintage1, that custom Hudson was sold before Don passed and was up and running at a recent monthly meeting of the local H-E-T club.

 

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