LaVerne Marie (Widell) Petersen of Whitewater, Wisconsin, passed away on February 17 , 2014. She would have hated the term "passed away", or "passed" or "entered into rest", and instead always referred to this part of life as simply "Checking Out". She was born near Sutton, Nebraska to Marie and Burt Widell on June 21, 1923, the longest day of the year (or shortest night), so it was always easy for family to remember her birthday. Her family moved to Rockford, Illinois when she was very young and she graduated from East High School before enrolling at Rockford College with the goal of studying psychology and literature. When the War broke out, she left college to work in the war plant at Woodward Governor. It was during those years that she agreed to go on a blind date with a young Navy Ensign, Robert Petersen. It only took one date to know she had found the love of her life, but always laughed years later because she never again socialized with the friends who had fixed them up! She and Robert married on June 12, 1944, while the war was coming to a close and they spent part of their first years together in Texas living in a converted chicken quonset hut, battling the occasional scorpion that wandered in.
When the war ended, the couple moved to Capron, Illinois to run the family farm. LaVerne had to learn how to be a farm wife, cooking for family and the hired hands, managing a garden and putting away food by canning and freezing, and becoming part of a small farming community. She threw herself into the task and became a leader in her church, and an accomplished seamstress, knitter, cake decorator and furniture refinisher. She was known for her boxes of marzipan and fudge that she made every Christmas for family and friends. But something was still missing in her life, and so in the 1970s she decided to go back to college and finish the degree she had started so long ago. She enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, graduating with honors in Womens Studies.
She loved driving in the country to hunt for wild plants, planning family get togethers, watching The Twilight Zone and Frasier, and listening to Garrison Keillor, frequently ending her telephone conversations with "and that's the news from Lake Woebegone". She researched the family genealogy and presented each member with a scrapbook filled with photos of their family .
She was always plagued by the fact that she never learned to swim. ("I'm the only person in my class to do the elementary backstroke on the bottom of the pool"). And she broke into tears whenever she heard "Memory" from the musical, CATS.
She is survived by her husband of 68 years, Robert Petersen, her daughters Marianne Petersen of New Albany, Indiana and Betsy (Ted) Wakefield of Vermilion, Ohio, and son, Charles (Jane) Petersen of Lyndon Station, Wisconsin. She also leaves five grandchildren: Timothy Still , Jeremy Hilton, Jennifer Hilton, Jacob Petersen, and Samantha Petersen , and one great granddaughter, Lucy Petersen, plus favorite nieces and nephews: Jen (Phil) Rada, Jack (Bill) Potter, JoAnn (Bob) Riggle, Tom (Carol) Lawson, and Ron Lawson.
At her request there will be no formal visitation or service. Instead she asked that the family simply go out for fish fry together. In lieu of memorial contributions, please write your local congressman to work on better health care legislation for seniors. Monroe Funeral Home, in Delavan, WI, is assisting the family. Visit us at monroefh.com.