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Obituary Condolences

John Milton Peters 1935 ~ 2010 San Marino, California Dr. John Milton Peters, Hastings Professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, passed away on Thursday, May 6, 2010, at his home in San Marino, California, as a result of pancreatic cancer. John was born April 24, 1935 to Milton David and Elizabeth Shumway Peters in Brigham City, Utah. He had a happy childhood in Brigham City, excelling in academics, sports, and music. After graduating from Box Elder High School in 1953, he studied at the University of Utah, receiving his B.S. in Biology in 1957 and his M.D. in 1960. He was on the Utah golf team for two years, and played intramural basketball and softball there. A love of golf, as of all sports and games, stayed with him for all of his life. After graduating from the U, he did a surgical residency at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for one year, and then was drafted. He served for two years as a captain in the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. In the service he became fascinated with the health problems of workers and decided to pursue further education, receiving an M.P.H. in 1964, and a D.Sc. in 1966, both from Harvard University. His doctoral thesis concerned the effects of cigarette smoking on the health of Harvard undergraduates. (He had wanted to call it, with his characteristic sense for a good pun, "Ashes to Ashes.") He stayed on the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health until 1980, as one of the pioneers in the field of occupational medicine. In 1980 he moved to the University of Southern California, where he expanded his scientific research by exploring new public health problems. Demonstrating the long-term negative effects of air pollution on how children's lungs develop was perhaps his most important scientific contribution, which he made as the Director of the Children's Health Study at USC. Over his almost 45 year career, he published over 150 research papers on diverse topics including studies of the health effects of silica, asbestos, vinyl chloride and other chemicals, and electromagnetic fields. Those who worked with him prized his creativity, ingenuity, and collaborative approach. He had many colleagues and students, and was known among them for his razor-sharp mind, dry wit, ability to see the big picture, and inspirational leadership. He married Carolyn Widtsoe Durham in 1956, and together they were the parents of four children. The marriage later ended in divorce. On August 8, 1976 he married Ruth Ann "Ruanne" Kloepfer and they made a happy life together with their common interests in medical research, fine food and wine, classical music, and travel. Together they visited every continent except Antarctica, which they were planning to visit just at the time he was diagnosed with cancer. They also shared a love for his children, and the children loved her just as much as they loved him. John and Ruanne brought the children and their growing families together every Thanksgiving for nearly 25 years for a feast and togetherness. No one could barbecue a turkey like John could, and each year it tasted even better. He supported his children's education and took great pride in their accomplishments, and the same extended to his grandchildren and great grand-children. John loved to play games of any sort and was fiercely competitive. He had many treasured moments, and a few frustrating ones, on the beautiful golf course of the San Gabriel Country Club. He loved to root for the Boston Red Sox and Celtics and the USC Trojans. He was a lifelong master of crossword puzzles and his verbal talent also made him a consummate punster. He was wise, witty and very generous. His advice and presence have been an anchor at some time or another for everyone who was close to him. His friends and family cannot say how much they miss him. John was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his beloved wife, Dr. Ruth Kloepfer Peters; sister Jody (Thomas) King of New York City; children John (Marsha) Peters of Iowa City, Iowa; Philip (Diana) Peters of Piedmont, California; Susa (Steve) Brush of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Charles (Lydia) Peters of Orlando, Florida; as well as six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. No memorial service is planned at this time. Any memorial donations should be made to the John M. Peters fund at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

Published in Salt Lake Tribune on May 9, 2010
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