"Walter John Peterson, born August 8, 1945, in San Francisco, died on June 23, 2000, while hiking with his best friend Don Welch in the North Fork of Big Pine Creek outside of Bishop, California. Walt touched the hearts of many people through his sincere concern for his family, his community, his church, his friends, and even his animals.
Walt retired from the Air Force where, as a technical sergeant, he and his crew were responsible for maintaining B-b2's for flight status. After the Air Force, Walt realized the importance of education, graduating from Cal State San Bernardino with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He ran a detention center with the California Department of Corrections. In the late eighties, while working with this group, he met Livia, a member of the organizations board of directors. Walt and Livia married and in 1992, purchased a home in Phelan, where Walt's happiest and most productive years were spent.
Walt leaves behind two sons from a previous marriage, Thor and Scott. However, his true family life was spent with Livia and her four children, Jim, Jeff, Greg, and Therese, whom he considered as his own. His greatest delight was his four grandchildren: Ashlynne, Zachary, Mikayla, and Christian. Nothing pleased Walt more than sharing the joys of hiking and camping with them.
In addition to his family, Walt loved his community and was especially active in the Wrightwood/Phelan Search and Rescue team (his second family), logging in over 1,500 volunteer hours last year and most recently, serving as their commander. He received certificates in snow and ice rescue and technical rope skills and earned a technical rope rescue instructor certificate with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Walt also obtained his amateur radio license, KF6TP, for use with the SAR team. Equally important, Walt worked with the local Forest Service personnel to establish a "Hug-A-Tree" program to educate those visiting the San Gabriel Mountains on what to do if they're ever lost. The Wrightwood SAR team has presented these programs regularly for the past three years to school assemblies, scouting troops, churches, and for the past two years to forest visitors.
Walt also volunteered at Saint Hillary's Episcopal Church in Hesperia, regularly working on building projects and gathering materials for rummage sales. In fact, Walt's home improvement and construction skills were utilized and appreciated by scores of local homeowners whose residences he improved.
Walt recently renewed his equestiral skills. Many years ago, he enjoyed riding his thoroughbred mare. After a ten year lapse, he began riding a dapple gray Missouri fox trotter gelding. Walt and his friend Tom Schneider qualified with their horses through the Phelan Sheriff's Equestiran Patrol's Horse and Rider Minimum Standards (HARMS) course and were looking forward to riding with the Mounted Search and Rescue together. Walt and Tom went target shooting at the Apple Valley Gun Club and both qualified, with their weapons, for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Walt also enjoyed deep-sea fishing. He was an accomplished outdoorsman.
Walt has a soft spot in his heart for Labrador Retrievers, any color or condition. He frequently rescued Labs that had been hurt or abandoned.
When asked what they remembered most about Walt, everyone's comments were similar. Without exception, Walt was like a brother to all, comfortably combing his casual bantering with dedicated encouragement for each person to accomplish feats we hadn't realized we could achieve. His constant admonition was to do things in a safe and smart manner, for as Walt constantly said, "Stupid hurts!"
Walt lived the Golden Rule while enjoying life to the fullest. His last week on earth was an example to us all that one must appreciate every day. During that week, he worked with Search and Rescue to help our community, rode his horse twice, gave comfort to a friend recovering from back surgery, and took his last hike in his beloved mountains. Walt Peterson was an exceptional man who will be greatly missed in the hearts and lives of everyone he knew."
- From Schneider for the rest of the Wrightwood Search and Rescue Team