Russell Francis Peterson
Russell Francis Peterson, 90, died peacefully on Feb. 22, 2013, at his home on Beavertail in Jamestown, surrounded by loving family. He was born in Montclair, N.J., on June 11, 1922, the only child of Arthur S. Peterson and Marion Klotter Peterson. He was the husband of the late Barbara Burns Peterson.
Russell grew up in Cedar Grove, N.J., and attended Camp Dudley in Westport, N.Y., from 1931 to 1933. He graduated from the Tilton Preparatory School in Tilton, N.H., in 1940, and attended Harvard University until enlisting in the U.S. Army at the outbreak of World War II where he served with the 10th Mountain Division. After the war, he completed his college degree at the College of Charleston.
Mr. Peterson began his career in the museum field first in Charlotte, N.C., and then in Charleston, S.C., before moving to Locust, N.J. He was a staff mammalogist with the American Museum of Natural History in New York where he led multiple scientific expeditions to Australia and Papua, New Guinea. He was inducted as a member of the Explorer’s Club in New York City based on his expedition work and his discovery of several new species of mammals. He was a naturalist, illustrator and author of numerous books on natural history and historical subjects, including award-winning books for young adults. He was also successful as a life science and scientific illustrator. He was a member of both the American and Australian societies of mammalogists.
An avid skier, he remained involved with his former ski troops through the national association of the 10th Mountain Division for most of his remaining life. In his 50s he competed in the Vasaloppet, a 90-km cross-country ski race in Sweden. He and his family moved to Jamestown in 1965 where he enjoyed sailing, tennis and tending his gentleman’s farm of horses and sheep. He was also a former trustee and rear commodore of the Conanicut Yacht Club in Jamestown.
In short, Russell Peterson led a full and exciting life. He accomplished much in a wide variety of interests, but he was always passionately involved with the health and welfare of all animals and the environment of Earth.
He is survived by his children, Torre Peterson of Manassas, Va.; Pia Peterson Senior (Eric) of Jamestown, and Per Bengt Peterson (Linda) of Jamestown. His grandchildren, Will Rodier of Providence; Pia Charlotta Peterson of Mayer, Ariz.; Emelia Peterson of Providence; Torsten and Analise Peterson of Vienna, Va., also survive him. He was predeceased by his sons, Erik Anders (1948) and Erik Christopher (2004).
Services for Mr. Peterson will be private and a celebration of his life will be announced at a later date.