Thomas C. Petersen, age 86, of Holstein, passed away peacefully at his daughter, Tracey’s, home in Olathe, KS on Dec. 2, 2020. He was surrounded by his family as his wife held his hand. He courageously battled cancer for several years, and had resided until recently at The Ridge in Holstein. A private family funeral service will be held at the St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holstein with the Pastor Bob Lewis officiating. Burial will be at the Holstein Cemetery of Holstein with military rites conducted by the American Legion Dessel-Schmidt Post #225 of Holstein.
Tom was born July 29, 1934, the youngest of 4 children, of strong, stoic, hardworking German parents. Father, Joe Petersen, was a second generation German American born in Ida Grove, IA. He married Augusta Liesner, who immigrated to the United States from Germany through Ellis Island to become a house girl for a family in Ida Grove in 1922. After marrying, Joe and Guste bought the 160 acre farm 3 miles north of Holstein on which Tom and his 2 brothers and sister were born and raised.
Tom graduated from Holstein High School in 1952 as valedictorian of his class. He was also captain of his senior class track team, and was proud of winning the silver medal at the 1952 Iowa State Track and Field Meet in the 120 yard high hurdles. He loved that his grandson, Zach, followed in his footsteps to become a state qualified hurdler.
Tom worked with his father and brothers on the family farm until enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1954 in order to serve his country as his father had, and to take advantage of the G.I. Education Bill being offered at the time. He later attended and graduated from what he called “farm school” with training in agriculture and conservation management.
During his military service in the Korean War, his commanding officer recommended him for a special assignment which involved maintenance of the electronic systems of submarines. When he arrived for the detail, the supervising officer didn’t want to bother testing Tom for the job upon learning he had only a high school education from a small Iowa farming community. Tom surprised him by acing the test, and thus got his special assignment which was classified as top secret. Upon returning to Holstein after earning a medal for good conduct and being honorably discharged, he returned to his true passion—farming.
Shortly after returning, Tom ran into a beautiful, long legged, blonde school teacher at a dance at the Cobblestone Inn in Storm Lake, IA. Doris Breyfogle graduated from Holstein High School in 1951, also valedictorian of her class, and leading scorer of the 1951 State Girls Basketball team. What a catch! He was immediately smitten. They shared their first kiss at Harold and Audrey Schubert’s wedding dance, and Tom persuaded Dorie, as he called her, to return to Iowa from California where she had been teaching first grade. They were married at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Holstein on August 16, 1959, and spent the next 61 years together. They were an example of love and devotion to their children and all who knew them. In their last 10 years especially, one did not go anywhere without the other. Each repeatedly said of their spouse, “I need to take care of your mom/dad.”
Tom and Doris bought the family farm in 1960 and raised 3 children there: Tracey Linn, Keith Joe, and Susan Joanne. They instilled a strong work ethic in their children, and pride in a job well done. All 3 spent countless hours of their childhood in the family’s huge garden and helping their dad with the cattle and hogs he raised. Feeding livestock, hauling manure, bailing hay, walking beans, painting barns, canning produce, hanging laundry out to dry, and mowing the huge lawn were assigned tasks, and also happy memories for the kids.
Tom was a smart financial manager, and though farming a quarter section farm wasn’t always very profitable, he loved every minute of it and provided well for his family. He proudly paid cash for everything he ever bought, including a beautiful new home on the farm built in 1973, and every piece of farm equipment, pick-up and car he ever bought.
Tom’s spare time was spent fishing, and the family has many great memories of expeditions to Silver Lake, Storm Lake, and local farm ponds. He also took several trips to Canada with family and friends for walleye fishing, and those trips were his happiest memories. He managed to turn his son-in-law, Steve, and grandchildren Zach and Caitlin into avid anglers! In later years, it was Tom’s greatest joy to go out to Fred Lukens’ pond with a group of buddies. While catching a fish or two was the goal, the bigger draw was spending time with great friends. Coffee at Chuck’s Body Shop and later, Dean Breyfogle’s garage, every morning, also rated very high on his list of priorities. He enjoyed regular conversations with Keith about Iowa and Iowa State sports, and also loved to travel to Kansas and Montana to see his grandchildren’s special activities and events. They all meant the world to him.
Tom was a member of the Holstein VFW, St. Paul Lutheran Church, and a member and on the board of the Holstein Elevator. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind, gentle, generous man. He helped many friends and family in times of need.
He is survived by his beautiful bride, Doris Mae Breyfogle Petersen, and his children: Tracey Petersen Atzeni (husband Steve), Keith Petersen, and Dr. Susan Petersen (husband Dr. Jon Bullman). Pop-Pop was adored by his grandchildren: Zachary Atzeni (wife Danielle), Caitlin Atzeni, and Mikayla, Allie and Derick Bullman. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Arla Petersen. Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Augusta Petersen, and his siblings: Frances Petersen Rholf, brother-in-law Robert Rohlf, Harry Petersen, sister-in-law Marcella Petersen, and Roger Petersen.
His children pray that Heaven for their dad includes a John Deere tractor, a good fishing hole, an iced cold beer or two, and a reunion with dear family and friends whom he missed so much in recent years.
The family wishes to thank the staff members of The Ridge, St. Croix and Phoenix Hospices, Pr. Bob Lewis, and countless family members for their strong love and support during these last difficult months and days. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to either the Holstein VFW or St. Paul Lutheran Church.
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