Harold Albert Peterson was born April 10, 1932 the first child of Grace Evelyn Farrar and Clarence Peterson. Known as Pete throughout his life, he always said his father was the toughest man he ever knew, and yet to all of us who know Pete, we say he is the toughest man we ever knew.
Pete married Gloria Nadine Scribner October 18, 1950. Over the next two years, they had two sons, Jimmy Dean born May 26th 1951 and Harold Edward born Jan 12, 1953. Then tragically on July 5, 1958, both boys were in a barn when it caught fire and they died there. Two years later on Oct 11, 1960 they had a little girl. They named her Kim Marie. Pete always called her “Sissy”. Tragically only a year after her birth, their little girl choked and died in Pete’s arms. After the boys died Pete resorted to alcohol to relieve his pain, but he said that when Sissy passed away, he knew he could not do that again because he realized that he would destroy Nadine and himself. Then on November 26, 1962 Todd Daniel was born and 22 months later on January 13, 1965 Richard Lane was born. As time went on Nadine became ill and one day Pete came home from work and found her sitting at the table crying. She told Pete that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and was told she had only three months to live. They immediately signed up for cancer research experimental drug programs. That extended Nadine’s life for four years. She passed away on the 20th of February, 1965, leaving Pete with Todd age 10 and Rick age 8 to raise by himself.
Pete met Mary Salo after he moved to Billings Montana. Mary’s husband had contracted a serious illness and Mary was left to raise her and her husband’s eight children by herself. Pete’s youngest son Rick and Mary’s oldest son John became good friends and one day wrecked Pete’s truck. That was the catalyst that started Pete and Mary getting acquainted. Long story short: Pete and Mary were married March 14, 1984. Mary always said she could not have imagined anyone taking on the responsibility of her large family until she met Pete.
Pete worked for the Milwaukee Railroad as a heavy equipment operator and instructor. Along with that he spent 28 years as a fishing and hunting guide and outfitter. After his first two boys died, he went to work as a Montana highway patrolman. Then back to the railroad. Years later after he and Mary were married, he drove truck as a bull hauler for a few years. Intermittently he worked on ranches and owned a ranch in Whitehall Montana where he contracted hay while still working for the Railroad. He spent three years working for Oscar at Oscar’s Dreamland where he loved the wonderful old steam farming equipment. He was so excited to run the old train and take care of the equipment. Pete was skilled working with cattle, horses, and dogs. He always said he understood animals better than he understood people. In 1997 after surviving an accident where he was run over by a tractor and after surviving colon cancer, at age 65 Pete and Mary bought their Ranch in Pryor, Montana. He loved that ranch and contracted hay all over the valley working long hard hours. They also raised and broke quarter horses.
Pete again was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and thought he had a short time to live so he set his mind to fulfilling a dream of having his own set of draft horses and a covered wagon. He bought our two big percheron mares, Donna and Dora, and spent that whole winter out in his shop heated by an old wood stove building his “covered wagon”. We all teased him that it was the “Petabego” because he built it with drop down cupboards and storage areas for everything you would need for survival. In 2016 Pete was having trouble keeping up with all of the ranch work so he and Mary sold their ranch. The thought of moving to town was more than Pete could bear. Good friends Ed and Lesley Jorden put a beautiful modular home on their property for Pete and Mary to move into. They have lived there happily the past three years as Pete has been able to do a little bit of work with the horses and haying and machinery.
Pete freely admits that he has always loved God but at one point in his life he wondered why God would take from him all that was precious to him. He suffered intense grief at the loss of his wife and his children. He searched and found his connection with religion and God at the height of his grief one day when he went up on a mountain near his home in Whitehall Montana. He had been having blackouts from working too many hours without sleep by trying to maintain a ranch and working long hours on the Milwaukee Railroad. He took his gun and rode his saddle horse up on the mountain near his home prepared to take his life feeling that his two living sons would be better off without him. He had a strong spiritual experience on that mountain which brought him to an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and the purpose of life. He said from then on he never doubted and never again felt alone. Through the years he has had several spiritual experiences that have reinforced and strengthened his faith as he continued to encounter serious health challenges as well as deep loss while he saw Mary through the grieving as she suffered through the death of two of her eight children.
Although the road with Mary has not been an easy one trying to pull their family together through the years, their love and appreciation for each other and the children and grandchildren now numbering 27 grandchildren and and 11 great-grandchildren with two more coming this year has been the great legacy of his life, as he has earned the undying love and respect of each of them.
Pete has never felt he was anything special even though he has known he has had some pretty special life experiences. In his own little way he had a little “keep up with the Joneses” desire, but he did it on a shoestring and as he and we all have laughed “Jerry Rigged” his stuff to make it all keep up.
Although Pete bragged some about his accomplishments, he never really felt he was much compared to the strong men around him. He admired and looked up to men who were strong leaders spiritually and men he looked up to as being great husbands and fathers. He has loved his children and Mary’s children have also become his as he has loved them like his own. He honored their love and respect for their own father and never tried to usurp that in any way. His grandchildren are loved by him no less than if they had been his own flesh and blood and that love has been returned to him.
Pete has left a mighty big hole in our hearts. But we look forward to being with him again. He is survived by wife Mary, sons Todd (Shelley), Rick (Anne), Step-sons, Johnathan Salo (Kristen), Kevin Salo, (Jolee), Christopher Salo (Annette), Joseph Salo Jr. (Emily), Patrick Salo, and step-daughter Callie Delapp (Sam), 27 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren; sisters Judy Holmes and Patricia Baker and numerous nieces and nephews. Preceding him in death are wife Nadine, sons Jim and Ed, daughter, Kim Marie, step-son Jeffrey Salo, step-daughter Heather Kope, also brother Raymond and sister Linda
The family would like to give special thanks to Stillwater Hospice and Riverstone Hospice for their kind care of Pete and Mary during his illness.