Athletic Fields Dedicated to John Peterson 32 Years After His Retirement
Promise Made Good, Finally, To Hampton Coach
By Larissa Mulkern
Sunday Herald, [The Hampton Union], Sunday, June 30, 2002
The John G. Peterson Athletic Field and a plaque displayed on Saturday.
[Staff photo by Emily Reily]
HAMPTON - It may have taken 32 years, but the athletic field behind Hampton Academy Junior High School was finally dedicated to the memory of former teacher, athletic director and coach John G. Peterson on Saturday.
Local historian John Holman uncovered this unfinished piece of business when reviewing old newspapers. He found that in June 1970, at a dual retirement party to honor John Peterson and his wife, Mildred Peterson, a school secretary, School Board member Mrs. Herbert Casassa announced the field would be named after Peterson and a "fitting plaque would be displayed to dedicate that field in his honor," according to Holman’s newspaper account.
"Sadly to say, this great honor never took place and no plaque or dedication was ever held," stated Holman in an announcement. Saturday’s ceremony was scheduled for 10 a.m., with Peterson’s daughter, Linda Theriault, attending. Mrs. Peterson passed away in 1981.
Col. Paul Lessard knew John Peterson for many years when he was a student athlete. The colonel ran track and played football under Peterson’s leadership.
"He was a good guy, came to the school fresh after he got out of the Army. John was dedicated, very good with the kids.
"He was a coach - not a father to us, but a coach. He took personal interest in people," he said.
Lessard said the schools had a good football team and a superb basketball team under Peterson’s tenure as coach.
Another thing he remembers is Peterson, a retired Army officer, advised Lessard not to go into the Marines. He joined anyway.
Peterson had been the athletic director at the Hampton Academy & High School, and at the Hampton Academy Junior High School for 24 years; his wife had been the secretary at the high school for 15 years.
Peterson died in 1988 at the age of 80. In addition to his long teaching and coaching career, he was a 43-year member of Hampton’s American Legion Post 35.
According to Holman’s research, Peterson served in the Army from January 1943 to April 1946, and was a second lieutenant at the infantry school in Fort Benning, Ga. He graduated from Springfield College, and later received a master’s degree in education at Boston University.
He was the manager of the Hampton Beach State Park for 29 years. He was a past president of the New Hampshire Coaches Association and a past president of the New Hampshire Physical Education Association. He was an honorary life member of the New Hampshire Education Association and an honorary member of the New Hampshire Athletic Association.
No one really knows why the field was never dedicated. Many are simply happy the day has come.
"Thirty-two years later, I am proud to say that, finally, Mr. Peterson will receive this honor posthumously and finally bring this long overdue tribute to a fitting conclusion," Holman stated.
The plaque is an engraved bronze piece set in granite on the field.
Overdue Honor Bestowed
By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, Tuesday, July 2, 2002
HAMPTON - Thirty-two years after plans were first put into place, John G. Peterson was finally honored this weekend when the athletic field behind Hampton Academy Junior High was named after the former teacher, coach and athletic director.
Peterson, who died in 1988 at age 80, unfortunately did not live to see the field named in his honor, but this daughter, Linda Theriault, and many friends from his days at the junior high school rejoiced Saturday morning during the ceremony.
"This honor is long overdue," said John Holman, a local amateur historian who discovered oversight while rummaging through old newspapers.
Peterson, along with his wife Mildred, school secretary at HAJH, were feted in 1970 upon their dual retirement at Yoken’s in Portsmouth.
At that time the idea of naming the field behind the school to John was discussed, but the idea was never followed up.
Mildred Peterson also did not live to see the ceremony. She passed away in 1981.
Col. Paul Lessard, who played for Peterson and knew the man as a friend for decades, helped Holman in setting up this weekend’s ceremony.
Lessard recalled his days at Hampton Academy half a century ago, playing football under Peterson.
He remembered the first track team, which Peterson coached.
"He was a gentleman and a person I looked up to all his life," Lessard said.
Through his long life, Peterson was a teacher and coach for 24 years, served in World War IL, and managed Hampton Beach State Park for 29 years.
A graduate of Boston University, he served as president of the New Hampshire Coaches Association, the New Hampshire Physical Education Association, was an honorary lifetime member of the New Hampshire Education Association and the New Hampshire Athletic Association.
Saturday’s ceremony began with the presentation of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, before several long-time members of the Hampton community spoke of his dedication to the community and the youth of Hampton.
'What he did in his life ... clearly, this honor is warranted," said Chris Singleton, a member of the Hampton School Board.
Harold Fernald remembered Peterson telling him to join the track team.
"'Come out and just enjoy yourself,' Mr. Peterson said to me.. I have to admit, I was a below average athlete, but Mr. Peterson encouraged my participation. He was a wonderful teacher, coach and friend," Fernald said.
A granite plaque with bronze engraving was unveiled at the back end of the field at the end of the ceremony.
"Thirty-two years later I am proud to say that finally Mr. Peterson’s memory will finally be honored the way it should be," Holman said.
Petersons' Feted, Acclaimed During Double Testimonial; Peterson Field Photographs and Obituary of John G. Peterson.]