Ian, Tasha and I are currently renting a house on Peterson Ridge in Michigan that my mom owns as a rental property. Peterson Ridge is not really a street, it’s more like a walkway. Even though it has its own name as though it is a street—but it is literally just a walkway between about 10 cottages, all dating back to the early 1900s. The walkway is named Peterson Ridge because Mrs. Adriana Peterson and her husband originally bought and owned several of the cottages here, so they gave the walkway its name. She lived to be 101 years old and her sister had lived to be 104. Her husband preceded her in death when he passed in 1988.
So why am I writing a post about a 101 year old woman whom I’ve never met? Well, she died on Monday this week. As a newer member of the Peterson Ridge community, I have been witness to what an impact this woman made on the neighborhood. I first learned of Mrs. Peterson’s death on Monday evening when I was enjoying the fire with Dale and Karen, my neighbors. They talked about how her sister had also lived to be so old and how for several years now she has been on the decline in terms of her health. Then yesterday as I was walking the beach in the early morning, Jeff, a neighbor from further down the Ridge stopped with his dogs to share the news and information about the memorial service. Obviously I wasn’t going to go to the service, since I had never met Mrs. Peterson, but Jeff used the term “I’m trying to let people on the Ridge know about her passing,” and it sort of struck me what it means to be a member of this community. It made me think too how one reacts to the death of someone one never knew, yet only “knew of”—should I be sad? Upset? Uncaring? Will all the people living on the Ridge be going to the memorial? Should I feel as though I should be there? I mean…I live on the Ridge that these people gave their name to…and I’m part of the community, so does that mean I should be there as well? Even when people whom none of us have ever met pass away, we are all impacted.
And then I found myself considering what it means to live to be 101 years old. Mrs. Peterson was born in 1912 which means that she was alive for and witness to such historical events as the end of WWI, the bombing of Pearl Harbor….September 11th….really all of the military skirmishes in between. And then the passing of the 19th amendment and the overturn of DOMA. So many other historical events too between those 101 years and then it comes to mind if those felt significant or if history is only noticed once it has passed.
At any rate, the passing of the woman whose family gives its name to my street is thought-provoking and it has caused me to consider what sort of legacy she will leave behind. I read her obituary—she has lived in Grand Haven most of her life and volunteered at numerous organizations. It seems she led a good, full and for the most part philanthropic life. And for 101 years.