Paul Petersen, 81

Educator and gardener

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Paul W. Petersen, a longtime Oak Park resident, died on March 26, 2020 at the age of 81. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he taught at Longfellow School in Oak Park until the time of his retirement. He also served as a volunteer cross-country coach at Fenwick High School during the 1978 through 1981 seasons. In his retirement, he worked as a volunteer at the Oak Park Conservatory, was a dedicated "Friend of the Library," and enjoyed swimming in Lake Michigan. He was always working on projects in his garden and around his house but was never in a rush and always took his time to look over his work with his cup of coffee in his hand," recalled neighbor Ed Pacer. "He enjoyed block parties and chatting with his neighbors.

"Paul was a fixture on our block and always greeted anyone walking by with a great big smile and oftentimes some random bit of history that was both interesting and informative. He was always outside working in his garden, which is just starting to come back to life after the long winter."

Neighbors organized a ceremony on the 800 block of South Scoville at 7 p.m. last Sunday evening. Because of social distancing, everyone was asked to step outside their home and light a candle in Paul's honor and place it on the sidewalk. They observed "a short moment of silence to remember a man who lived life on his own terms and was an eternal optimist," said neighbor Chris Parente. "The world could use more Pauls right about now." 

Paul Petersen is survived by his sister and brother-in-law Nancy (Peterson) Weiss and Ed Weiss, his nephews Ted Weiss and Peter Weiss, and his niece Elizabeth Lennie. He is preceded in death by his parents, Paul F. and Helen Sophia (nee Wendell) Petersen. 

Services will be private. Arrangements were handled by Fox River Cremation Society.

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Scot Yonan  

Posted: April 26th, 2020 1:19 PM

I didn't know Paul very long but he was always so nice to me, my wife Amy, and my parrot Guapo. His garden is blooming right now, and Ed let me know of his passing. I will miss his warmth and friendly greetings when I pass his house.

Lorena Petani from Chicago   

Posted: April 5th, 2020 12:50 PM

Paul Petersen was one of my dad's (Miro Petani) best friends. They lived life the way it should be lived: fully, with great fervor, humor, adventure. There were no excuses in their book. Swimming the great lake Michigan every morning at 6am with the dogs & other friends. Stopping for coffee at my moms. Life was beautiful, it was magnificent. He was an integral part of our lives and we love him forever. Bye Paul. We love you.

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