January 3, 1932 - February 5, 2011
Prominent Hollywood cinematographer Don Peterman died in his Palos Verdes Estates home on February 5, of complications myelodysplastic syndrome, a form of leukemia. He was 79. As a director of photography, Don broke ground in the 1983 film Flashdance, introducing a photographic style that would be mimicked for years and for which he won an Oscar nomination. A second Academy Award nomination honored his work on the 1987 film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The American Society of Cinematographers also nominated him for outstanding cinematography in the making of this film. In a career spanning more than four decades, Don worked on 24 feature films including Men in Black, Get Shorty, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Cocoon. In 1981 Don was cinematographer on director George Cukor's final film, Rich and Famous. Don found his life's work early on. He began his career at age 22 as a film loader at Hal Roach Studios. From there he moved to an animation camera and an optical printer at Cascade Studios. He left Cascade Studios to work on the Lassie television series and returned as staff director of photography shooting commercials. Don next went freelance shooting TV commercials, and in 1974 shot his first feature film, When a Stranger Calls, as a freelance director of photography. Donald William Peterman was born on January 3, 1932, in Los Angeles. His father died when he was a child, and he was reared in Hermosa Beach by his mother. He graduated from Redondo Union High School and years later was honored as one of the school's most distinguished alumni. Throughout life, Don's heart remained in Hermosa Beach. He often reminisced about his early years there - a simpler time when bonfires on the beach and sleeping in the dunes were the norm. Everyone knew Don's dog Ricky, who followed the mailman on his neighborhood route. In 1991 Don was delighted to work on the production of Point Break, an action film set in Southern California's surfing culture, which he was part of himself in his youth. Don traced his interest in cinematography to the influence of a family friend, a special-effects cameraman named Roy Seawright who gave him an enlarger and opened the door to his first job in the film industry. Later, young Don served in the US Army, traveling the country to film an Army documentary for television broadcast. In 1957 he married Sally Hutcheson and a few years later they settled with their young family in Palos Verdes Estates, far from the Hollywood social scene, with its good schools and open space. Don always said that falling in love with Sally and marrying her was the best thing that ever happened to him. More than anything, Don devoted himself to family. He didn't like being away from his wife and children when on location around the world, and he brought them with him whenever practical. All three of his sons followed in his professional footsteps, and they often worked together. Don's interests outside work were many. He enjoyed restoring old houses and once owned two lakefront vacation homes he had renovated on Lake Arrowhead. Fascinated by the history of World War II, later in life he traveled to Normandy and imagined making a movie about the war. Enthralled by the romance of sailing, he loved sailboats, boat shows, and fixing up vessels. He also liked old cars and once owned a Model A Ford. Throughout their marriage Don and his wife shared a passion for the Dodgers. In 1958, after the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the two attended the first home game of the season in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Don was equally dedicated to the USC Trojans football. In 1997, his life took a turn when he was seriously injured after a camera crane collapsed on a movie set during filming. He convalesced for two years before going back to work and filming his last movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Don was accepted as a member of the American Society of Cinematographers in 1984. He was also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He remained close to his mother, Mimi Harvey, all his life. She died 15 months before him at age 99. In his retirement years Don revived old friendships from his youth in Hermosa Beach, entertaining friends with a wit and lightness that seemed to come to him after his working days were behind him. Don also enjoyed precious time spent with his 10 grandchildren. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sally Peterman of Palos Verdes Estates; daughter and son-in-law, Diane and Robert Tschupp of Lafayette, Colorado; sons and daughters-in-law, Keith and Carol Peterman of Palos Verdes Estates; Jay and Gloria Peterman of Fountain Valley; and Brad and Misa Peterman of Manhattan Beach; and his grandchildren, Noelle Tschupp of Denver; Natalie, Jeff, and Emily Peterman of Palos Verdes Estates; Tim, Michelle, and Kimmy Peterman of Fountain Valley; and Julien, Jasmin and Scarlett Peterman of Manhattan Beach. Don also leaves behind his cat, Flower, a constant companion. A memorial gathering will be held at 1 pm, Thursday, March 3rd, at St. Cross-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 1818 Monterey Blvd., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Cross-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, or to Heal the Bay, www.healthebay.org/secure/memorial-tribute.
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