Dr. Celon A. Peterson passed away peacefully in Pacific Palisades on February 14, a perfect day for a man with such a big heart. He was 95.
Dr. Peterson maintained a dental practice in the Palisades for 30 years and was a resident here for 37 years before retiring to La Quinta in 1990 with his beloved wife, Echo June. They lived happily at PGA West where he was an avid golfer until his recent return to the Palisades.
Born on January 27, 1918 in Kildeer, North Dakota, to Lena and Carl Peterson and, Pete grew up in Beulah with his two brothers, Royal and Dale. His graduating high school class had 11 members, which meant he was on every sports team and held every office over the years.
He hitchhiked to Seattle to attend the University of Washington and graduated as a pharmacist in 1941. He had met beautiful blonde Echo June at a fraternity party and is famous for his opening line, “I prefer brunettes, but I’m willing to dance with you anyway.” He was active in ROTC and promptly joined the Third Division Infantry as a second lieutenant upon graduation. He asked Echo June to marry him before he was shipped overseas and sent the engagement ring to her in the mail.
The Third Division was involved in the invasions of Casablanca and Sicily, and Pete was awarded the Silver Star for heroism. He was awarded the Purple Heart a month later when he was seriously wounded, his life saved by his belt buckle deflecting a bullet down into his leg.
He was written up in the local papers for another incident as well. As Pete dined in Casablanca one evening after the invasion, in walked his brother, Lieut. Dale Peterson, a Navy flyer. They had not seen each other for four years and neither knew where the other was stationed. They discovered they had landed at Casablanca at the same time and had been living in quarters half a mile apart for several days.
Upon his return to Seattle, Pete married Echo June on October 22, 1943 and they enjoyed married life at Fort Benning, Georgia, until his discharge in 1946. Taking advantage of the GI Bill, Pete enrolled in the first class at the new University of Washington dental school and graduated in 1951.
Following graduation, he and Echo June and their two children, Jack and Carol, headed down the coast to find sunshine and the perfect spot to establish a dental practice. After first settling in Santa Monica, they soon discovered Pacific Palisades and bought their first home there in 1953. Seven years later, Pete moved his office to the new La Colina medical building on Monument and enjoyed a successful practice there until his retirement at the age of 72. His daughter, Carol Ross, worked for him as a dental hygienist and continues to work there for Dr. Scott Warner, who purchased the practice in 1990.
Pete and Echo June loved the Palisades and were active in the community and professionally. He was president of the local Rotary Club, the Western Dental Society and the Beverly Hills Academy of Dentistry, and received special recognition for 25 years of volunteer service as a staff member of the Children’s Dental Clinic at Santa Monica Hospital. Pete loved to golf and was a member of Riviera Country Club.
In 1993, Celon and Echo June celebrated their 50th anniversary with a Caribbean cruise on the Holland America line and discovered to their delight that it was the only cruise line with a dentist working on board. Soon they were traveling the world, with Echo June attending lectures, playing bridge and enjoying life at sea while Pete was available to the crew and passengers. Some passengers with serious dental problems would only take cruises that Dr. Pete was on so he could take care of them in an emergency.
In the evenings they would host a table at dinner, attend the fabulous shows and then dance the night away: beautiful dancers thanks to their dance lessons at the Ebsen Studio in the Palisades. The highlight of their years cruising was a two-month trip around the world.
The Petersons’ 64-year marriage was a true love affair that impressed and inspired all who knew them. They were best friends who always appreciated how lucky they were to have found one another—two people with the most wonderful dispositions who loved life and made it a pleasure for themselves and everyone around them. Pete had a kind and gentle soul, saw the best in everyone and lightened every situation with his humorous and optimistic take on life. He was a romantic, never missing a birthday or anniversary, and treasured his family and friends. Even in his later years his focus was always towards others’ happiness, never on himself; he was always thoughtful and considerate, with a twinkle in his eye and a ready laugh.
Pete is survived by his daughter Carol Ross (husband David) of Pacific Palisades; granddaughters Lindsay Gillette (James) of Los Angeles and Kelsey Ross of Pacific Palisades; and his older brother Dale of Pinehurst, North Carolina. He was predeceased by his wife Echo June in 2007 and son Jack in 2004.
A memorial service will be held at the Palisades Presbyterian Church this Saturday, February 23 at 1 p.m. The family will receive friends at the Ross home after the service.
If desired, donations to the Alzheimer’s Research Association may be made in Pete’s honor.
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