This week was much more emotional than I bargained. Work pushed me over the edge, men pushed me over the edge, my dad attended the funeral of yet another of his brothers and my dear uncle Jim is stuck in Florida battling the West Nile virus one grueling day at a time.
I never felt especially close to my Uncle Arlen. He always lived in California, and I in Texas. What seemed like worlds apart when I was a kid–some far away “la la land” as my parents described it. Uncle Arlen traveled the world over and back again by RV, plane, car..you name it. He went to places like Africa and Antarctica and Thailand, that only much later in life felt relevant to my ever-expanding reality and ever-growing palate for all things international. Apart from his occasional visits to Texas and postcards from his travels, much of him was a mystery to me. His wife, Marilyn, died when I was very young. I remember the sadness and my mom picking me up from school on that day. He then remarried to a wonderful saint named Sharlene. From what I hear, she is the only woman who could possibly put up with his characteristic stubbornness. And do so with such love and grace. My dad and Arlen were different as night and day, but brothers no less.
As with many who pass, we see things in their passing that somehow escaped us in their living. Uncle Arlen was a small town Texas boy who moved across the country and helped send people to space for a living. He dared to carve out a different life than what he’d always seen. I’d like to think that’s something in the Petersen gene that him and I got an extra dose of. I’d like to think that, though we were not close, we are family and thus never disconnected by such a minor disturbance as death.
Here is his obituary. It is good to remember those we’ve lost. To keep remembering so that they may take on new forms of life…
Arlen Petersen (1934 – 2012)
It is with great sorrow that the family would like to announce the death of Arlen Christian Petersen, 77, on July 27, 2012.
Arlen was born in Danevang, Texas on December 7, 1934, the oldest of four boys born to Hilda and Eddie Petersen. He grew up on their family farm in Iago, Texas, becoming an Eagle Scout at age 16.
Arlen married his high school sweetheart Marilyn Pickett on June 4, 1955. The same week he graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, the two were wed and moved to California. He was hired by Rocketdyne as an aerospace engineer where he worked for 35 years. They were happily married until her death in 1987 and had three children: Cheryl, Craig and Celeste.
He wed Sharlene Frederick on April 22, 1988, and they enjoyed 24 wonderful years together. They were avid travelers, seeing all 50 states, 48 of 50 in their RV, and visiting 71 countries in all seven continents. Their many charitable endeavors include RVers in Mission, Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House and service projects in the Appalachians and overseas in Kenya and South Africa.
He was an active member of the United Methodist Church of Simi Valley for over 40 years, including being involved in church committees, serving as a youth counselor and lay delegate for many years.
He loved the outdoors and enjoyed tennis, backpacking, camping, biking and hiking. His hobbies and interests included woodworking and jazz festivals. Jazz cruises were a favorite. He loved spending time with his family, manning the BBQ and making his annual chili every Christmas Eve.
Arlen was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Gary Petersen, his son, Craig Petersen and his wife, Marilyn. Arlen is survived by his wife Sharlene, his brothers, Ronald Petersen and Dennis Petersen, daughters, and sons-in-law Cheryl and Conrad Williams and Celeste Petersen and Joe Felde. He will be dearly missed by his grandchildren, Melissa, Ashley, Dillon, Nathan, Elijah, Alexander, and Atticus. He is also survived by Sharlene’s children, Randy, Rich, and Liz Frederick.
A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, August 4 at 1:30 p.m. at the Simi Valley United Methodist Church, 2394 Erringer Road. Memorial donations can be made to the Simi Valley United Methodist Church, Aldersgate Retreat Center in Pacific Palisades, Calif., or the American Heart Association .