Part 5: Karl Peterson and The Rest of the Story

I had planned to write about Karl Peterson visiting us in Columbia, South Carolina, for five days in June 1991. But I have changed my mind. Instead, I want to end this series with one last post about Karl and our friendship.

I was in Virginia with my husband, visiting his parents, when Karl Peterson’s daughters called, informing me that their father had died and asking me to speak at his funeral. There was no way that I could make it back to Ohio in time for his funeral. So, I wrote what I would have said and contacted a faculty member, Charles Chatfield, who read it for me at Karl’s funeral.

This is what I wrote:
A handful of students kept him talking after class: but he was willing to keep up the discussion as long as time allowed. The topics were varied — religion, anthropology, criminology, art, movies, and sociology. You need not agree with him, but he responded to students as if their questions were exceedingly serious. In time, I noticed that my questions were becoming more substantial. He expected it.
Fifteen years ago, when Karl Peterson was my teacher, the books in his office were in three-foot stacks everywhere. He had bibliographic suggestions for nearly every discussion. Once during a conversation with me, he loaned me a book that dealt with the history and influence of the phrase “We Stand On the Shoulders of Giants.” I am grateful for the privilege of standing on the shoulders of a giant — an exemplary teacher, avid reader, lover of art, and good friend.

Sometimes the memories of people we care for trip us up when we least expect it. I found this in my journal written in April of 1994:

On the Death of My Teacher, Karl S. Peterson.

Four months have passed since you died. There is still an oddness about it — a piece not fitting.

You have been my friend, teacher, and advisor for fifteen years. You visited me and my family in two of our homes. We sat on a park bench in Connecticut and smelled the salty sea air at Light House Point Park. In South Carolina, we sat on the curb outside the art museum and ate lunch — street vendor hot dogs. How often have we gone out to dinner in Springfield or Yellow Springs, and now you are dead.

It is just weird. It wasn’t that we talked so often — but I wasn’t finished with the conversation, were you?

From your obituary, I learned things that I never knew about you. But you said I was a rare friend to whom you could say anything.

Although the longevity of friendship makes up for lots of conversation, I keep thinking, oh, I must tell Karl. Are you listening?

PS.  Karl, here it is 29 years later, and I still miss our talks.





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18 Responses to Part 5: Karl Peterson and The Rest of the Story

  1. ceafryer says:

    Lovely, Ann, thank you.

  2. Nancy Hazle says:

    Sweet story! Long friendships are rare and rarer still if the friends are of opposite sexes.

  3. AECRM says:

    Thank you, Carol — I appreciate it!

  4. AECRM says:

    Thanks, Nancy. I’m glad you liked it. I’ve never met his daughters, but I suspect I am about their age. He was a good friend and finally writing these posts was a cheering thing to do.

  5. Judy McCorkle says:

    I am glad you wrote this series. I wish there was a spot on the Witt website with them I think Ellen, Kathie and I could contribute, as could countless others. It is important to remember Dr. Peterson in times like these.

  6. AECRM says:

    Thank you, Judy; that is a thought-provoking idea that never occurred to me. Before long, we can talk about this in person. Cheers to you.

  7. Jan Seibel says:

    This is a heartwarming story. There are so many, yet really so few, who touch us so deeply that its truly hard to explain the rationality I guess. Why did this person touch us so? What was so special? Why is there a hole left when they are gone? I have a few friends like this and my only thought is, they had a way of making you feel special, like you were the only person they talked to that way. In actuality that is just how they were…to everyone, I found out at their funerals. Each of us, as special as the next. A rare breed I say. 🙂

  8. AECRM says:

    Jan, thank you for taking the time to write that thoughtful response. They are a rare breed. There is a hole left when they are gone.

  9. What a wonderful way to honor such a beloved and influential person. I’m feeling a few of those holes as well, the conversations that feel as if they should go on. I imagine what these key people would think about present day happenings. It’s a way to keep those conversations alive.

  10. AECRM says:

    Kathie, an interesting response. Yes, indeed it is a way to keep those conversations alive. Thanks for your thoughts!

  11. brett cornelius says:

    Our mentors are a precious resource. This made me remember the ones who filled that role in my life.

  12. AECRM says:

    Brett, you speak the absolute truth, they are indeed a precious resource. Thanks.

  13. Michael T Carr says:

    A lovely piece of writing, Ann, and a sweet story about a special person who touched the lives of many and still echos through yours. This is a great remembrance of and tribute to him.

  14. AECRM says:

    Thank you, Mike, high praise indeed.

  15. Ellen Summers says:

    Gratitude is the bedrock of a virtuous life, at least in the view of a number of ancient thinkers. This series of posts shows that quality in abundance. Thank you.

  16. AECRM says:

    Ellen, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

  17. Richard Krohn says:

    Close friendships never end.
    Just like ours(and Ron’s)
    Miss you(and Ron)
    With Our Love
    Richard & Nadine Krohn

  18. AECRM says:

    Thank you, Richard — you have spoken truth indeed. Love to you & Nadine.

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