Robert Byron Peterson

July 9, 1937January 21, 2021

Robert Byron Peterson (1937-2021), former Chairman and CEO of Imperial Oil, passed away peacefully in Aurora, ON, on the morning of Thursday, January 21st, 2021, in his 84th year. He was the husband and love of his life to his beloved wife, Yvonne and devoted children Daniel (Dan) and daughter-in-law Jane Peterson, and son, Thomas (Tom) and daughter-in-law Colleen Peterson. A much loved and admired grandfather to Rebecca, Robert, Nicolas, Riley, Matthew and Joshua, Robert derived joy in emphasizing education, while watching them pursue their dreams. Robert will also be sadly missed by his surviving sister, Betty Bystrom and her husband Raymond. Robert is predeceased by his sister, Linda Pellatt. Robert joined Imperial Oil in 1960 and remained with the company until his retirement in 2002. His career took him to many locations in Canada and the USA ending in Toronto as the Chairman and CEO of the company. As a youth sports coach, mentor and eventual CEO of one of Canada’s most prominent companies, Robert delivered a constant message of leadership, ethics, governance and social responsibility. He was known for his ambition fed by his enduring preparation and thoughtfulness. Among several distinctions, he served on the boards of the Royal Bank of Canada, the Conference Board of Canada and was a 2003 Inductee in the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame. Opportunity for education meant everything to him as without it, Robert and Queen’s University (‘59 BSc, ‘61 MSc) would never have found each other. While growing up in Saskatchewan, Robert was awarded a scholarship to Queen’s that he and his beloved Yvonne continue to pay forward with the Robert B. Peterson Queen’s Entrance Scholarship established in 2003. The family wishes to thank Dr. Alisha Kassam of the Stronach Cancer Centre and all the wonderful staff who gave extraordinary care to Robert in his short stay at the Southlake Regional Health Centre. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Stronach Cancer Centre or similar of your choice. Arrangements entrusted to the Thompson Funeral Home, 530 Industrial Parkway South, Aurora, Ontario. On-line condolences may be left at


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Robert Byron Peterson

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Michael van Vlymen

February 27, 2021

It was with a heavy heart that I read of Bob’s passing. As an employee of IOL for many year’s with Bob at the helm, I was always impressed with his breath and depth of knowledge of the business. He always treated me kindly and spoke to me by name even though I was fairly low on the totem pole. I have fond memories of animated discussions with Bob on a range of subjects both before and after our retirements. A pillar of the industry that will be sorely missed. My lasting memory is talking naked with Bob in the showers after a golf game and him complaining that my score was better than his!

jim nininger

February 12, 2021

Dear Yvonne. I was saddened to learn of Bob's passing. It was kind of you to mention the Conference Board of Canada in his obituary. I have many happy memories of the times you and Bob spent at our weekend conferences. And I was so honoured to have Bob serve as Chair of our Board of Directors. He was highly supportive of our organization and our work.

Please accept my sincere condolences,

Jim Nininger
Former CEO
the Conference Board of Canada

Charles Ruigrok

February 1, 2021

Dear Yvonne and Family,

I was deeply saddened to hear that Bob had recently passed away. I particularly enjoyed my time working closely with him while on a development assignment in Corporate Planning. He was a great mentor to me personally and I have reflected on that experience often. Whether it was our early morning meetings in his office or our lunch time meetings in the “lounge”, Bob always had insightful observations and history to share on the whatever it was that we were working on or discussing at the time. I admired his integrity, his thoughtfulness and his great sense of humour. He was a great leader and I owe much of my career success to Bob. Imperial’s shareholders were never better served than they were under Bob’s leadership. Heartfelt condolences. I know he will be missed by many.

Charles Ruigrok

Mark Schacter

February 1, 2021

Yvonne and Family

My condolences on the passing of Bob

All the great time we had at Beacon Hall are amazing memories

It seems like only yesterday that we were celebrating his 50th birthday party at the Club

Mark Schacter

Brian MacIntyre

January 29, 2021

My strongest memory of Bob is when I was invited to join him on the company plane for a flight from Toronto to Calgary. After he served me a drink and showed me some of the plane’s toys, he proceeded to grill me for about 3 hours about the Texaco Canada pension plan in relation to the IOL plan.

About half a dozen times over the next several years while I was leading a pension plan discussion at Management Committee, Bob would begin a question with the phrase “I remember during our flight to Calgary that you said .......”. Fortunately I survived those questions.

Several years after his retirement my wife, Marion, and I gave Bob a drive back to our Calgary hotel after a work associate’s retirement event. During the ride Marion asked Bob lots of questions which he answered graciously. As we pulled up to the hotel I mentioned to Bob that now he knows how I felt during that plane ride. He roared with laughter.

I echo all of the other’s comments about Bob’s wit, integrity and high principles. It was an honour to have worked for him.

Randy Gossen

January 29, 2021

Dear Yvonne and family, I was greatly saddened to learn of Bob’s passing. He was a great mentor and terrific boss. My most vivid memories go back to the Cold Lake public hearings in the late 70’s. Bob and his team of ESSO followers including Bernie Reilly, Paul Curley and myself spent about 6 weeks being grilled by lawyers and local residents who were initially quite hostile to ESSO’s proposal. In the end the government and the locals approved the project. This was mainly due to Bob’s high degree of integrity, credibility and empathy to local concerns You may recall Yvonne, that at the conclusion of the hearing we celebrated with a fish fry at my house with the fish having been provided by residents of Cold Lake.
Cecilia and I offer our deepest sympathy.
Cecilia and Randy Gossen

Fern Starke

January 28, 2021

Dear Yvonne and family,
I was very saddened to hear that Bob had passed away. I worked with Bob at Imperial Oil and spent many hours presenting the financial earnings and other matters to him. Bob was truly a great leader and teacher from whom I learned a significant amount about caring, excellence, integrity, business knowledge and many many more things. He inspired us all to be a better version of ourselves and achieve more than we thought we were capable of. I recall what he said to me at his retirement reception when I told him that we would sorely miss him and his knowledge and wisdom – he said “I have taught you how to ask the right questions so you will be fine going forward”. I was humbled by his comment and over the years when facing new and difficult situations I would reflect on those words and think carefully about what questions I needed answered to be able to move forward. Bob, thank you for everything that you taught me.
I posted Bob’s obituary on Linked-In so that his colleagues would have a chance to pause and remember a great leader. Hundreds of people have reacted. I share below some of the comments.
“A sad loss of a fellow Queens engineer. The many rigorous reviews with Bob taught us to first understand and believe in what we were presenting to him. I use his phrase “let’s start from first principles” many times. Many thanks Bob - may you rest in peace, knowing that your memory lives on in us.” Brian Livingston
“Bob was a great man and took IOL where it needed to be during his time as a senior leader.” Don Millet
A brilliant leader, a great mind, and a man of deep integrity. He will be missed. Theresa Redburn
And other comments noting that people were sad to hear of his passing and that Bob was a great leader and a man of great honour! There were also comments from some ExxonMobil colleagues who had never met him but had heard many great things about him.
Farewell Bob - thank you!
Fern Starke

Jim Brierley

January 27, 2021

Dear Yvonne and family,

I was so saddened to first hear of Bob's illness and then his passing. He was a very special person, intelligent, kind, articulate, and always fun to be around. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

I will always remember is fun loving spirit and his love of golf and life in general. He will be sorely missed by his many friends at both Beacon Hall and Loxahatchee.

I hope that your many loving memories of Bob will bring solace in the trying days ahead and that you can find some comfort with your children and grandchildren.

God Bless you Yvonne. Please stay safe and take care of yourself,


Audrey and Tod

January 26, 2021

Dear Yvonne and family,
We were saddened and surprised to hear of Bob's passing.
You are always so good at sharing your news at Christmas and we thoroughly enjoyed reading about your activities...
We know you have many good memories to help you through this difficult time.
We shared good times together at Esso functions in Edmonton
many years ago...
We send our deepest sympathy to your and your family.
Audrey and Jack Tod

Pat Mulva

January 26, 2021

Dear Yvonne and Family,
We are sorry to learn of Bob’s passing. He was a great mentor, coach and leader. I truly enjoyed working for him during our time in Toronto. We always tell folks that it was our favorite place to live because of the people, and Bob was a big part of that for us. I especially appreciated his willingness to listen to my ideas and his support as we worked through many issues. But the really best part was Bob’s humor. He could always lighten up the atmosphere with a comment or a story. Flying back and forth to Calgary once a month with Bob was always a positive adventure. And on very rare occasions he would even ask me to pitch in on the NYT Crossword Puzzle.

He will truly be missed.

Pat and Mary Mulva