Robin Kerry Peterson was born in Beach, N.D., on June 30,1951, to Joye Obert Peterson and Ruth Francis Woodard Peterson. He always claimed to be lucky #13, as the last of 13 children. Robin attended the one-room schoolhouse, the Lapla Rural School, near the ancestral home. On his first day of first grade, he could already read and write and knew his multiplication tables, so he was sent home with a note that he had been a terrible disruption in the one-room schoolhouse visiting with his older sisters and brothers. So much so, that the teacher tied his shoelaces to his desk and he simply took them off.
His mother, Ruth Woodard Peterson, had returned to Dickinson State College in the late 1950s to obtain a teaching certificate and ultimately a degree in library science. Robin and his older sister, Kathy, moved with her to a small rural school in Little Beaver Creek, N.D., when Ruth received a job teaching at a one-room school. The family moved to Watford City, N.D., in 1959, and Robin had to adjust to town living. Ruth was offered the position of head librarian at Wapato High School in 1962, and the remaining children living at home made the pilgrimage from North Dakota to the Yakima Valley. Robin was just entering junior high school at that time and made the best of another disruption of friends and setting. He was an extremely talented musician, playing the trombone in Wapato High School Band, Orchestra and the infamous "Coherents" Dance Band. He was a talented athlete and excelled in basketball and tennis. He was an exceptional student and chose to attend Eisenhower High School in Yakima for his senior year to focus on studies and eliminate the distraction of sports. He graduated in 1969 from Eisenhower High School and enrolled in Yakima Valley Community College, where he played tennis for the Yaks.
Robin studied at the French University in Aix-en-Provence in southern France in 1971. While there, he played on the university basketball team along with a few other American students. They called themselves "The All-Americans" and made it all the way to the national championship in Paris. He came home for Christmas vacation and married Kristie Kathleen Kwak in Harrah, Wash., on Dec. 30, 1971. They spent their first six months of marriage in France. He graduated from Western Washington University in 1973, with a bachelor of arts in French education. He attended Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., and earned a masters in Christian education. They moved back to Harrah to work on Kriss' family farm. While there, daughter Hanna Kathleen was born in Toppenish on Sept.14, 1975. Robin was asked to serve as interim pastor for the Wapato Community Presbyterian Church. He also taught French at Yakima Valley Community College during those years while deciding which seminary to attend. Son, Amos Kerry, was born in Yakima on Aug. 6, 1977. Six weeks after Amos' birth, the family moved to Pasadena, Calif., so he could attend Fuller Theological Seminary. He graduated from Fuller with a master of divinity degree in 1978. He was enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Fuller and expected to return after the summer break. God had other plans for him and he was called to serve the Presbyterian Church in College Place.
Robin began his ministry at College Place Presbyterian Church Labor Day weekend in 1978. He was ordained as a minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church, USA, at Wapato Community Presbyterian Church and installed as pastor at College Place Presbyterian Church in January 1979. Daughter Ella Kristeen was born June 7, 1981, and daughter Cleo Kristienne was born Feb. 12, 1983, in Walla Walla. He served the congregation faithfully for over 30 years. He was a blessing to the community and officiated at weddings and funerals for hundreds of people. He never met a stranger and was a friend to all. His passion for sharing the love of Jesus and his devotion to Christ was evident in all he said and did. He gave sacrificially of his time and effort to the people of the Walla Walla Valley. He taught French at Whitman College as a visiting professor for several years and was even known to climb on top of the desk in true Robin Williams' fashion (Dead Poet's Society style) to help his students have a different perspective on the world. He loved Walla Walla Blue Devil High School Athletics and never missed a basketball or football game, tennis or wrestling match. He showed his love for people of all ages by supporting their interests and activities. He shared the love of Jesus with any and every one in the example of Christ by walking alongside them through their lives.
Growing up on a farm in North Dakota, the land was always in his heart. He and Kriss bought a 65-acre farm near Whitman Mission in 1990. He raised sheep for many years as well as Walla Walla Sweet Onions and served as the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Growers Association president at one point. He raised beef cattle and horses and put up alfalfa and grass hay. The connection to the land was grounding for him. He loved to spend hours on a tractor talking to God. He walked through the cows and horses every day and felt a powerful connection to God through nature. He believed God calls us to be good stewards of all creation and raising healthy animals was his way of fulfilling God's command.
Robin loved his children deeply and cherished his grandchildren. He wouldn't say he was proud of them because pride is a sin. Instead, he would say he "took great delight in his children" and "with them he was well pleased." He was a man who knew the value of hard work. He instilled that work ethic in his children and expected great things from them as he did himself. We all miss him terribly and will strive to be worthy of his delight. We love you, Dad.
Robin was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006. He underwent years of radiation and chemotherapy and continued to serve his congregation throughout his physical trials. In May 2010, his lymphoma changed from a slow-growing to aggressive type. He came under care of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in August and prepared for a stem-cell transplant. His daughter, Hanna, provided his donor stem-cells and the transplant was successful on Jan. 11, 2011. He fought valiantly to overcome the scourge of cancer. He developed Graft vs. Host Disease from the transplant and suffered from pneumonia. After six weeks in the University of Washington Medical Center, the Lord took him home peacefully, surrounded by his family and close friends on May 17, 2011. His last words to us were, "Tell the kids I love them. Tell the congregation I love them. All to the glory of God."
Memorial contributions may be sent to the College Place Presbyterian Church for the upkeep and ministry of the Wasser House Cancer Respite home at: 325 N.E. Damson, College Place, WA 99324. Or to charity of donors choice to Herring Funeral Home, 315 W. Alder St. Walla Walla, WA 99362.
Robin was preceded in death by his parents and four siblings, two in infancy, and his brothers, Charles and Tom Peterson. He is survived by his wife, Kriss Peterson; his children, Rev. Hanna Peterson of Kelso, Wash., Cpt. Amos Peterson, DVM, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and his wife Lindsey and their two children Rhona and Thorsten, Ella Peterson Brown and her husband Christopher of Portland, Ore., and Cleo Peterson of Seattle. He is also survived by eight siblings, Patsy Joann Pagiotas of Clifton Park, N.Y., Earl B. Peterson of Bozeman, Mont., Noel E. Peterson of Alberta, Canada, Jan M. Peterson of West Yellowstone, Mont., Harvey Peterson of Beach, N.D., Dan E. Peterson of Bismark, N.D., Ophie Hart of Palmer, Alaska, and Alice Kathleen Peterson of Newton, Iowa. Numerous nieces and nephews and their offspring round out Robin's family who will miss him dearly.
Viewing and visitation will be held on Thursday, May 26, at 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Friday, May 27, at 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
His burial will take place in Walla Walla on Friday, May 27, at 3 p.m. at the Blue Mountain Memorial Gardens. A celebration of Robin's life will be held Sunday, July 3, at 3 p.m. in College Place.