Frederick Pete Petersen
Frederick Pete Petersen
Frederick Pete Petersen

Frederick Pete Petersen

AFRH-G Resident Highlight – Frederick “Pete” Petersen
By Lori Kerns| AFRH-G Librarian

In 1921, Frederick “Pete” Petersen was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  His father, a Danish immigrant, was the first to start the family’s military heritage by serving in the Army during WWI.  Pete and his four younger siblings grew up on a farm where they were relied upon to help with the daily responsibilities.  Before going to school each day, he was responsible for milking the cows.  The family also sold cream and hogs.  They would also bring their chickens’ eggs to the grocery store every Saturday in exchange for their groceries.  After graduating high school, Pete stayed to help on the farm for about a year before deciding to continue his family’s military tradition by joining the U.S. Navy.

In September of 1940 he set out for boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill.  Around December the Navy sent about four or five companies to the battleships, but Pete had put in to attend Aviation Machinist Mate’s School instead.  He got accepted and was sent to Pensacola, Florida marking the first time he had ever truly traveled.  Once he completed his training, he was sent to Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia to begin his job of modernizing the patrol planes.  At this time, radar was new technology so he was responsible for helping to update these planes.  His next assignment was with the Aviation Advanced Training Unit.  He received orders for Efate, an island in the South Pacific, to work on a carrier aircraft service unit (CASU).  By this time, the U.S. was involved in WWII so his unit would take care of the squadrons that would come in so that they could get back out and fight.  About a year later, he was sent to an aviation repair unit on Espiritu Santo, located in the same group of islands as Efate.  He stayed here for six months before transferring back stateside to Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda in California.  He was discharged from NAS Alameda in 1946 and went back to his hometown where he began working as a carpenter’s apprentice.

In September of 1949, Pete decided to rejoin the Navy.  He was sent back to NAS Alameda where he was assigned to the athletic department where he took charge of the supplies.  After a while, he went back to Aviation Machinist Mate’s School in Millington, Tennessee.  He finished his training and was sent to Washington to begin working a six-month stint on the recommissioning of the USS Yorktown.  His next assignment sent him to Miramar, California to begin working with the VF-121 Fighter Squadron.  With this squadron, he was sent overseas to Hong Kong and Japan.  When he returned to the States, he went to work at the gunnery range at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada to help with the equipment and also maintain the shop. Two years later, he went back to Millington to work with Aviation Fire Control.   Pete was bounced back to work with VF-121 in Miramar again before being assigned to more schooling back in Millington.  It was here, at the age of 39, where he met and fell in love with Willoudeen.  The couple married before he was sent to work with VF-103 Fighter Squadron in Virginia.  After a couple of years of being stationed VF-103, Pete decided to retire from the Navy with 20 years of service.

The couple moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he decided to begin a civil service career with the U.S. Postal Service.  He worked with the USPS for 23 years before deciding to retire altogether at the age of 65. 

The couple was married for 45 years before Willoudeen passed away.  They had four children with two continuing the family’s military heritage by serving in the Army.  From their children, there is now ten grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.

About six weeks after AFRH-G reopened in 2010, Pete moved into the home and has enjoyed living on the Gulf Coast ever since.  At the age of 97, he stays active by taking part in the many bus trips that take the residents to different destinations as far over as Pensacola, Florida and as far up as Birmingham, Alabama.  One of the most memorable times at the home was last year when Pete reigned as AFRH-G’s Mardi Gras King.  We would like to thank Pete and his family for their continuing service to our nation.