When Jack Bowers phoned and asked me to speak at Alf Peterson’s memorial, I was touched.
Alf was someone I had grown to rely on but after a long stay in hospital, he passed away on Christmas Eve. Writing Alf's tribute had to be something he would have approved of. I thought about it for five days . . .

I am honored by this opportunity to pay tribute to Alf Peterson.

Alf and his brothers have had a huge impact on the development of the museum and archival collections at R.J. Haney Heritage Village. A growth I've seen firsthand having worked there for almost 33 years.

Yesterday, I counted the artefacts the Petersons have donated over the years. They totaled 845–plus a barn! (carefully dismantled and reassembled at the Village.)

Whenever I needed apple boxes or a three-legged ladder for an exhibit, I called Alf. "Sure," he’d say. I promised to bring back said artefacts but never had to. He’d give me apples for the school program. I’d stop by with my Japanese granddaughter to pick an apple from one of his trees. He'd insist she pick the biggest one, and made a memory for her to take home.

The largest Peterson donation came in three truckloads of paper, all saved from the Salmon Arm Farmers’ Exchange and SAFE Ltd. Alf called and I sent a crew. We set up a tent and sorted decades of minutes, correspondence, financial statements, and other records.

Everything was put in date order. We shredded duplicates and ended up with fifteen linear feet of unique archival records–the largest paper donation ever! It is, I'm certain, someone’s Master’s thesis waiting to happen–and the record of a huge Salmon Arm success story.

Contributions of artefacts and archival material only scratch the surface of how Alf influenced the museum.

 (Hjalmar, Hubert, Floyd, Alf, and Elmer Peterson)

Alf was the youngest of the Peterson brothers, so I didn’t call him first when I needed help with questions about Salmon Arm or its residents. There were others: Bonnie McDonald, Florrie Farmer, Ronnie Turner, Reba Harper, Phil Cave, Bill Kernaghan, Herb Turner, Richard Maki, Marilyn and Ralph Kernaghan, Ralph Bartman, Denis Marshall, and Hjalmar, Hubert, and Elmer Peterson, but over time their knowledge became out of reach.

When I lost my contacts, I turned to Alf. Whenever an environmental company or researcher wanted to know about a property, I’d call him. When the City wanted to know the history of one of the non-gazetted roads or their historic buildings, I’d call Alf and Edna. Most of the time Alf had an answer. Sometimes Edna chirped in. One time this fall, Alf thought about the question I had that day and told me to call his son Allan for the answer.

In mid-December there was a question about the location of a numbered road that, at one time, bore an old family name. Denis Marshall’s book didn’t pinpoint it. I knew Alf was in hospital but I was relentless. I asked Norma Harisch to ask Alf when she was visiting her uncle.

Alf thought about my question and sent his answer back with Norma.

The road was near Engineer’s Point.

But Alf had his own question in return. He asked Norma to ask me if, when he passed away, I wanted his brain or his whole head! Now you have to picture the archival photograph version of Alf. He was a looker! No wonder Edna fell for him.

So it was easy to answer Alf’s question: I wanted his whole head.! Frozen cryogenically, so I could still access the information I needed. Norma took my answer to Alf.

Alf was in hospital for a long time and I understand he rested a lot in December. He would shut his eyes and, when Norma said she thought he was asleep, he’d say something.

“I wonder how that will work with cremation?” Alf asked, referring to the offer of his head or his brain.

Norma promised to deliver the message to me.

More days passed and Alf was resting again when Norma visited. His eyes were closed. He wasn’t complaining. Norma wasn’t sure if he was awake.

“I wonder how good Deborah is reading tea leaves?” Alf asked. I think he was offering me that piece of him–his ashes as tea leaves. I would still get a chance to have my questions answered!

That made me smile.

I’ll miss Alf.


Alf's obituary