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Prominent local businessman, Raymond Peterson, dies at 92

WILLMAR -- When Raymond Peterson finished four years of Army service in World War II, he looked for a business to buy. In 1947, Peterson bought a Willmar shoe store that had been in business since 1932.

For the next 37 years, Peterson and his wife, Muriel, owned and operated Peterson Shoe Store in downtown Willmar. They also owned the Betty Lou Dress Shop next door.

Peterson became involved in local activities and was always willing to lend a hand. He served on the Willmar City Council, Chamber of Commerce Board, Willmar Opportunities, Charter Commission and Red Cross Board, and was an active member of First Covenant Church, where held a number offices and duties.

"I think the well-being of the city was on his mind all the time," said Ralph Olson, who joined Peterson Shoe Store in 1949 and bought the business in 1984 when Peterson retired.

"He always worked towards that, promoting the city. He was a man who gave a lot to the community. He contributed a great deal in dollars, time and support."

Peterson, 92, died Sunday at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. The funeral will be 11 a.m. on Friday at First Covenant Church.

Peterson was born in Buffalo on Dec. 12, 1917. He graduated from Buffalo High School in 1935 and graduated from North Park College in 1938.

Olson says Peterson will be remembered for his honesty, fairness and service to the community.

"He was very much involved. Hardly anything happened around town that he wasn't a part of in one way or another,'' says Olson.

As a business owner, Peterson was looking forward. He remodeled the store a little bit each year and did two or three major remodels. After a fire in 1980, the shoe store and the dress shop were converted into one space, "so we became the biggest outstate family shoe store in a hurry,'' said Olson.

Peterson was like a family member, according to Olson.

"That was Ray's leadership. He was a teacher and whoever worked for us, we were family,'' said Olson. "Plus, everything that we purchased in this store was purchased from the salesmen who called on us and with few exceptions they were just like family. They knew us. They waited on us. We worked together. Ray worked with everybody without prejudice.''

Peterson established a benchmark that Olson said he and his son, Robin, who bought the store in 1999, have tried to continue to live up to.

"And we have,'' Olson said. "We've been successful and it was his footings, his foundation, that made us and especially in the early years had the foresight, and he was a good planner. He always had plans. He was planning something all the time. He liked to be prepared.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150