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Jean Marie Peterson


1957 - 2012 | Obituary | Condolences
Jean Marie Peterson Obituary
Jean Marie Peterson
July 14, 1957-December 21, 2012
Resident of Santa Cruz
Jean Marie Peterson passed peacefully from this life on December 21, the evening of the winter solstice, in the embrace of those who loved her best. She was 55 years old.

Jean was born in San Luis Obispo and spent her youth in central and southern California. One of the areas she lived and enjoyed was in Los Olivos, where she had many fond memories of working at Mattei's Tavern. Jean's adventurous spirit took her to many parts of this country and the world, to destinations as vast and varied as her life interests. She traveled extensively, especially throughout Latin America, spending time in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, and Argentina, as well as in South Korea and the Philippines. She described her time in El Salvador as the catalyst for her human rights work. Jean's deep affinity with women's struggles, particularly in the third world, led her to be part of a Guatemalan women's support group in Santa Cruz for many years. She was also a supporter of former Santa Cruz resident Dorothy Granada, who established a clinic for women and families in Nicaragua.

After living for a spell in Boulder Colorado, Jean returned to California in 1981 to participate in the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power protests. In later years she remained active in anti-nuclear causes such as the protests and vigils at the Lockheed facility on Empire Grade Road, and involvement in the War Tax Resistance movement. After her involvement with Diablo Canyon, Jean moved to Montana for a short period before making Santa Cruz her home. In 1988, Jean and Peter Lumsdaine had a daughter Lucy. Jean would often call Lucy, "my greatest accomplishment."

Jean vigorously threw herself into all aspects of life. Exceedingly hard working and deeply dedicated, she brought her substantial skills and expertise to every cause and job she took on. In her professional life, many Santa Cruz area non-profits benefited from her accounting services including Life Lab, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Santa Cruz Community Television, and the Resource Center for Nonviolence, the Diversity Center and the Community Credit Union, among others. Most recently, she was the Finance Director for the Women's Health Center in Santa Cruz.

Jean found her greatest joy in nature, particularly in ocean sports and hiking. She enjoyed kayaking, snorkeling, and especially ocean swimming. Some of her favorite hiking trails were in Wilder State Park, Point Reyes and Point Lobos. She loved birding and participated in many annual Santa Cruz bird counts. She took many backpacking trips, both with friends and on her own. Her unfulfilled goal was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

For more than eighteen years Jean lived at the El Rio Mobile Home Park Cooperative, serving on the board of directors for most of that time, much of it in the key role as treasurer. She also played an important part in moving El Rio forward in many important infrastructure projects.

Jean was devoted to the Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery. After the Big Sur fires of 2008, Jean braved dangerous conditions to assist in cleanup at Tassajara, walking the rest of the way up the mountain with a friend once her car could no longer navigate the road. Jean received lay ordination in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition at the Santa Cruz Zen Center in 2012. She sewed her Rakusu for the ceremony, despite her illness causing her to have use of only one hand. She was given the name 'field of blessings, gratitude way' by her teacher, Gene Bush.

Jean possessed a natural aptitude for creating with her hands, from being an avid gardener and accomplished seamstress to crafting delights for her friends as varied as candy, apple butter, chai, bath scrub, or pottery. With friends, she installed her own wood flooring, even staining the wood. She made her own marimba from scratch, and played in a local band. Contra dancing was another enthusiastic pursuit of Jean's. Jeans diverse interests led her in recent years to become a massage practitioner and also to raise chickens. Most of all, Jean was a compassionate, generous, and loyal friend. She was equally available for spontaneous parties or a quiet chat and a drink.

Jean met and married the love of her life, Mary Knudtson. They had the deep love, intimacy and connection most people only dream of. That union was a true soul match. The love that Jean and Mary shared was a gift to all who knew them and a lesson in unconditional love, acceptance and caring.

Jean was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in October of 2011. Undeterred by her illness, Jean packed as much living as possible into her remaining time, traveling with her wife for vacations and weekend getaways to Alaska, Chicago, Orange County, Point Reyes, Inverness, Tomales Bay, Big Sur, San Fransisco, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Cayucos and Bolinas, enjoying many dinners, parties and expeditions with her wife, family and friends. Each day she enjoyed taking in the ocean view from her home or with walking on West Cliff Drive with her wife. She was full of hope and grateful for the love and care she received. She maintained a joyful and positive spirit to the end. Possessed of a dry wit, Jean continued to make jokes up until a few days before her death.

Jean leaves behind her beloved wife Mary Knudtson, daughter Lucy Elanor Lumsdaine, son-in-law Adam Zellhoeffer, step-children Kelly and Clark Knudtson, parents Barbara and Robbie Wyre, brothers Per Peterson and Baba Wyre, sister-in-law Amy Wyre, nephews Aiden and Rilo, niece Delaney, her kitty Big Boy, her recently adopted kitty Spooky, dogs Ahava (her beloved "red fox"), Tink, Yogi and Chili, and many loving friends.

A Buddhist service will be held at the Santa Cruz Zen Center on February 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM at 113 School Street in Santa Cruz. A catered reception will follow from 5:00-7:30 PM at the Seymour Center in the La Feliz Room at 100 Schaffer Road in Santa Cruz. All are invited to attend either or both events.
Donations in Jean's name may be made to any of these organizations that she supported:
The Santa Cruz Zen Center
Tassajara
Life Lab
The Diversity Center
The Resource Center for Non Violence
Mesa Verde Gardens
Navdanya

Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Jan. 20, 2013
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