Ray A. Petersen
April 16, 1917 – May 11, 2018
Ray Albert Petersen—originally named Albert Ray Petersen--was born in the small Utah farming community of Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, Utah on April 16, 1917, to George Albert Petersen and Etta Althea Rolph Petersen. He was the middle of three children (Margaret Etta Petersen Pehrson and Florence Annie Petersen Whittaker). He married Martha Jane Davies (December 8, 1920—May 17, 2003) on October 14, 1939. They had two sons: James Ray Petersen and Ted Kay Petersen, as well as 9 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Ray’s father was a sheepherder, spending long summers in the cool mountains away from home. When the depression hit, his sheep were foreclosed by the bank. He took a job working on building railroad tunnels near Caliente, Nevada. A large rock fell on his leg, and he was taken to Los Angeles where he died from gangrene. This left Ray as the “head of the house” at the age of 12. He had a paper route where he delivered the newspapers by horseback. He had no saddle, and only got a bridle for his horse later on. He said he guided the horse by pulling on its mane. He reported there was often no dinner available as they struggled through the depression without a father. It was here he learned his life-long love for mountain stream fishing and hunting deer and pheasant. Ray also played football and volleyball in high school.
After graduating from high school, Ray enrolled in the Henninger Business School in Salt Lake City for one year. There he learned to type, and won several typing contests. He got a job in a trucking warehouse where he was working when he met and married Martha. She worked as a telephone operator where they connected calls on a switchboard by plugging in lines to connect two numbers. Together they earned about $75 a month.
They bought their first home in Wasatch Gardens in central Salt Lake City. Jim was born when they lived there in 1942. Ray got a job with P.I.E. (Pacific Intermountain Express truck line) on the loading dock, and then became a rate clerk (when trucks came in, he calculated the rate and final billing by hand for each item shipped on the trucks). That often required evening and week-end work. They then bought a home on Wyoming Street on the eastern bench of Salt Lake City. They planted strawberries in their garden. He bought a Hudson automobile.
Later they purchased a home on Hollywood Ave. in Salt Lake City. Ted was born when they lived there in 1950. Ray moved to Denver to take a position with Ringsby Rockets Truck Line where he was hired as a rate clerk. He later became a salesman. Bill Ringsby bought a professional basketball team and named them the Denver Rockets basketball team. They moved into a new home on Troy Street in Aurora, Colorado in 1952. He quickly moved up to the Vice-President of sales position. In 1962, he was recruited to move to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to help save a failing All American Truck Line. It was on the verge of bankruptcy when he arrived. But, he was able to turn it around to become a large successful middle-American truck line. He loved learning public speaking at Toastmasters, and even invited their truck drivers to join. At its peak, All American employed more than 3,000 with Ray as its President. When he was about 58 years old, All American was sold to a natural gas pipeline company. They thought they knew better how to run the truck line than Ray did, and he finally decided to retire at age 62 as they followed their own ideas. He served on the Board of Directors for a few years, but watched as the new company ran All American into bankruptcy. It was a sad thing for him to see.
But, he and Martha had discovered Del Webb’s Sun City in Arizona. They purchased their new home with a golf-course view for $28,000. He joined golf groups and sometimes played daily for a number of years. They regularly spent summers in the much cooler Park City, Utah area. Martha discovered pottery, joining the Sun City Clay Club. Over time, she became a master pottery teacher. Ray was the last surviving original owner of his home on W. Pineaire Drive, having lived there more than 43 years.
After a return of breast cancer from her first incident at age 42, Martha died in 2003. Ray remained in his home for 15 more years with support from Jim and Ted. His 100th birthday found him still in relatively good health, having survived a broken hip at age 97. But the ravages of old age finally overtook him just as he approached his 101st birthday. Martha commissioned a beautiful clay pot that would hold their cremated remains. She has been waiting for him in that half-filled urn for 15 years. They will be united in that clay pot and interred near Ray’s two sisters in the Springville, Utah Cemetery.
Ray A. Petersen
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