Yvonne “Vonnie” Marie Peterson, 87, of Duluth, MN, passed away in beauty and peace at home on March 12, 2021, surrounded by her loving family.
Vonnie was born in Duluth, MN, on November 22, 1933. Her parents, Merle and LeRoy Hansen of Duluth, adopted her shortly thereafter and warmly welcomed her into their family as their youngest daughter.
Growing up, Vonnie attended Duluth schools and worked at the front desk of the Hotel Duluth during high school. She graduated from Denfeld High School in 1952, and then went to work as a secretary for the Oliver Mining Company.
It was on a blind date in 1952 when Vonnie met the love of her life, Fredrick Daniel Peterson. After a brief courtship, they made their lifelong commitment of marriage on September 5, 1953 and were together for almost 67 years. They both loved to dance and created many happy memories over the years. Fred passed away on April 25, 2020.
Mom’s life was solely dedicated to her husband, her family and her home. She made everyone feel loved and cared for all of us in a most remarkable way. She and Dad hosted countless family gatherings for birthdays, holidays and get-togethers. They attended every music concert, theater performance, hundreds of sports events and every high school graduation to watch and support their grandchildren. Mom also had a soft spot for all the family dogs. They were always welcome to come visit or even stay awhile so Mom could get her dog “fix.”
Vonnie loved nothing more than having her family over to eat and visit - it was clearly a fundamental activity and brought everyone so much joy. Besides cooking for family crowds (especially spaghetti!), she was known for her incredibly popular poppy seed muffins, her talent for preparing authentic Chinese food from scratch in a wok, her yummy banana cream pies and her trademark caramel corn. “What should we have for dinner?” was frequently Mom’s first question following breakfast - a daily testament to her priorities for her family.
Mom had a quiet strength and stoicism that served her well as she and Dad navigated through life’s peaks and valleys. Also quick to smile and laugh, she loved each one of us unconditionally and always told us so. As a result, we have grown up in an atmosphere of love that has been passed down to grandkids and great grandkids, and will continue to strengthen and carry forward the family legacy in years to come.
Mom had a funny sense of humor that was appreciated by her children and grandchildren, even in her last days. She loved to fish, camp, play cards and drive her own snowmobile. She and Dad rode with the Reservoir Riders of Little Alden Lake. One time when they were out on the trails, Dad was leading the way for the group ... until our feisty little Mom blew by him with a spray of snow - apparently because she thought he was traveling “too slow.”
Vonnie loved music. Her all-time favorites included Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jonny Lang, Marvin Gaye and BB King (not necessarily in that order). A true fan of old-time Westerns, she never missed an episode of “Gunsmoke.” She also loved dressing up for any occasion and could put together amazing outfits from head to toe - cute and classy - that was our Mom.
Vonnie and Fred raised four kids and then delighted in being Gramm and Grandpa to a multitude of grandkids and great-grandkids. The WA grandkids dubbed them GGSota, a name which they proudly displayed on the vanity plate of their car. The grandkids grew up spending the night at the lake and giggling so much at bedtime that Grandpa had to bellow a threat or two just to settle them down (Gram could never do it!) A few favorite memories include catching frogs on the lakeshore, swimming off the pontoon boat, sitting on Nana’s wooden swing discussing life and making rice krispie bars in the kitchen with Gram. They also adored jumping in the sauna before bed and shared in Gram’s delight for filming the herd of wild deer that she fed daily in the front yard.
Vonnie and Fred loved the outdoors and explored many Canadian islands via fly-in only fishing trips. In their retirement years, they also journeyed on cruise ships to eastern Canada, Alaska, Europe and South America.
In July of 2019, thanks to the efforts of her youngest daughter Kristen, Vonnie was reunited with her birth family. Her half-sister Rita Lindahl of Boone, Iowa, came to Minnesota to meet Vonnie and her family. Vonnie’s birth mother Valeria Valeri Carlson predeceased her on August 8, 2008, and another half-sister, Valerie Carlson, also passed in June of 2016.
Vonnie was preceded in death by her parents; sister, Barbara; grandson, Benjamin Peterson Merrill; and several nephews.
Vonnie is survived by her daughters, Pamela Sue (David) White of Grapeview, WA, Lynn Marie (Dane) Youngblom and Kristen Merle (Mark) Norrell, all of Duluth; son, Daniel Fredrick Peterson (Dianne Walters) of Oakdale, MN; 14 grandchildren and 10 great- grandchildren - most residing in the local area; and many close friends, including Sharon & Patrick Alexander and Joann Larson.
Our immeasurable gratitude goes out to the Essentia Hospice nurses and caregivers who guided our family members and kept Mom comfortable at home in her last days. We are forever grateful to you for your kind and loving care.
A celebration of Vonnie’s life will be held later this summer. She will be laid to rest with her husband Fred at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Saginaw, MN. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Vonnie’s memory to Essentia Hospice, 330 E 2nd Street, Duluth, MN 55802.