Sun City West resident Mary Nygaard Peterson celebrated her 100th birthday recently with family and friends. Peterson was born during a Minnesota blizzard on Jan. 20, 1911, and was the eleventh of 12 children born to Norwegian immigrants.
Peterson started school at age 9 and completed all 12 grades in seven years. She completed a year of teachers’ college and began teaching at the age of 16 in rural, one-room schools while attending college during the summers and working on her bachelor of science degree through correspondence courses. Upon completion, she began a 49 year teaching career and earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from New Mexico State University, Las Cruces and took writing courses from the Universities of Oklahoma, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Peterson was also a freelance writer who wrote Sunday school lessons for teenagers and educational materials. She sold many folk tale adaptations to plays, and also contributed articles to other periodicals such as the Denver Post, the Lutheran Herald and the Daily News-Sun.
She was married to William (Pat) Peterson until his death in 1977. She has one daughter, Carol Navarrete and grandchildren.
When asked her secret of longevity, Peterson said it was surviving the Depression by living on oatmeal and prunes, and having to walk everywhere, even in the frigid Minnesota winters.