He was born in 1933 in Cedartown, Georgia of the Rev. Harry F. Petersen, Jr and Mary Ford Little Petersen.
Pete was educated at Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, 1945-1951, Davidson College (BS), Columbia Theological Seminary (MDiv), and Princeton Theological Seminary (ThM), and post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he married Martha Jane Morgan of Rock Hill, SC in 1960.
Ordained as Presbyterian (USA) minister in 1958, the majority of Pete’s ministry focused on university students and/or international persons, beginning at Columbia Seminary when he befriended Japanese and Korean fellow students. At Princeton, his closest friends came from India, Egypt and Trinidad. Two overseas assignments as Presbyterian mission co-workers led the Petersens to Taiwan for three years, Ghana and Nigeria, West Africa for thirteen years.
In Taiwan and Ghana he taught in theological schools and assisted the national churches in establishing student ministries. In Nigeria he taught on a university campus. A son and daughter were born in Taiwan, and a second son in Ghana.
In the United States, Pete founded Christmas International House (CIH), a hospitality ministry offered by churches for students who had no place to go for the holidays.
This program led to his being called to begin and direct Villa International Atlanta, offering housing and hospitality for international medical scientists doing research at the nearby Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Friendship, Christian presence, peace-making and multi-cultural understanding flourished in both ministries, which continue today.
Pete received awards for outstanding work in human relations by the DeKalb County Community Relations Commission in 1987 and by the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta in 1995.
Upon his retirement from Villa in 2000, Pete and Martha Jane moved to Black Mountain NC, where they both served Presbyterian churches in Walnut, Hot Springs and Siloam until 2015. Pete returned to knitting, derived from his boyhood knitting for American soldiers during World War II.
Pete also wrote his life story in seven volumes, including letters, maps photos and family entries for his children and grandchildren. Darlington School, Davidson College, Columbia Seminary and the Presbyterian Heritage Center of Montreat, NC accepted the volumes for their libraries. The work entitled The Enduring and Compassionate Providence of God: An Example reflects his belief that in life and death we belong to God.
He is survived by his wife and sweetheart of 57 years Martha Jane; sons Harry Frederick Petersen, IV of Kennesaw GA and daughter Priscilla George; John Morgan of McClean VA, and children Kate Elizabeth and Matthew John; and daughter Martha Lynne of Black Mountain NC and her children Joseph Morgan and Nadine Lynne; his sister Louise Petersen Caldwell of Harrisonburg VA; brother-in-law Ben A. Morgan and wife, Judy, of Leesburg VA, and four nieces and two nephews.
A memorial service will be held at Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Black Mountain, NC on Saturday, October 21, at 2:00pm, with the Rev. Keith Grogg of Montreat Presbyterian Church officiating.
A scattering of ashes will occur in Montreat’s Memorial Garden.
Memorials may be made to Villa International Atlanta, 1749 Clifton Rd, NE, Atlanta GA 30329 and Christmas International House, 3434 Roswell Rd., NW, Atlanta GA 30305. Extended obituary: www.PenlandFamilyFuneralHome.com.
Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times on Oct. 15, 2017