Marjorie “Mama Pete” Peterson Passes Away (8/3/1916 – 6/9/2013) Updated w/Service Info

Mama Pete at the Wistaria Festival media day in 2011, when she was named one of Sierra Madre's Treasures News Net file photo, Copyright 2011

Longtime Sierra Madrean Marjorie “Mama Pete” Peterson passed away on Sunday evening.  She was 96 years old.

Mama Pete was a long time contributor to this town, and the town knew it and appreciated it.  In 1982, she was named Citizen of the Year, and in 2011, she was named one of Sierra Madre’s Treasures by the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce.  The Sierra Madre Woman’s Club made her an Honorary Lifetime Member, an honor bestowed in recognition of a lifetime of service to the Club.

And a lifetime of service she gave.  Among other things she did for the Woman’s Club, she sat at the SMWC staffed information booth on the west end of town for many years, including through a torrential downpour in 2011 and 2012, and she cut oranges for the runners in the Mount Wilson Trail Race for many years, also a Woman’s Club activity.  But that doesn’t begin to list her contributions to the Club, or to the community.

In 2011, the local club nominated her for the Jenny June Award, given annually by the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, a national award.  She didn’t win, however I mention it because as Executive Director of the Chamber at the time, I was asked to write a letter of recommendation for submittal to the GFWC judges.  I was given some biographical information, and was quite overwhelmed at her resume.  The list was far too long to include everything in my letter, but here’s an excerpt:  “In preparing to write this letter, I reviewed an article that discussed Mama Pete’s contributions to the community that earned her the Citizen of the Year award in 1982.  I was aware that, in addition to her membership in the Woman’s Club, she had been one of the charter members of the Civic Club when it was formed back in the 1940s (1944).  But the article included a list of numerous other contributions she has made to the community.  PTA president in 1945 – 46.  Girl Scout leader from 1947 – 1974.  Member of the Volunteer Firemen’s Wives’ group from 1961 to 1977.  President of the Historical Preservation Society

Harry "Elvis" Shahoian helped Mama Pete celebrate her 95th birthday at his Concert in the Park in 2011 News Net file photo, Copyright 2011

from 1976 – 1978, continuing as a Board member until 1983.  Chairwoman of the Sierra Madre Centennial Committee.  And as long as the above list is, the amazing thing is that this is just an abbreviated list of her contributions.”

I mentioned that she was a charter member of the Sierra Madre Civic Club in 1944.  That was a big year for her.  It was also the year she started Mama Pete’s Nursery School, which is still in operation at her residence on Suffolk Ave. to this day. According to Michelle Zack’s  history of Sierra Madre “Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre,” Mama Pete had served as nanny to the Ward (E. Waldo Ward) children, and used that experience to begin her own school.  Here’s another excerpt from my letter to the GFWC’s judges: “…students of Mama Pete’s have, for generations, looked up to her as THEIR Mama, and have brought their children to the school, and their children have brought their children.  This has been going on for generations, and the crowds cheering for Mama Pete’s annual float in the 4th of July parade is evidence of the respect and esteem with which the members of this community hold her.”

One of the groups people can join on Facebook is called “You know you’re a Sierra Madre kid when…”.  On this page, people comment with things that are quintessential Sierra Madre, appropriate to the page name.  I noticed once looking at the page that someone had posted the comment “You know you’re a Sierra Madre kid when: you went to Mama Pete’s Nursery School.”  Several comments were posted in response, but the one that struck me was one by a gentleman who said “I went to Mama Pete’s for about a year in 1960.”  Here’s a man recalling his experience as a preschooler, more than fifty years ago!!  And she had already been at it for more than fifteen years when he attended.  I don’t think many people in this world, if anyone else, can claim to have been caring for an extended family as large as hers is, for as long as Mama Pete.

For years, Mama Pete staffed the Woman's Club booth cutting oranges for the runners in the Mt. Wilson Trail Race. News Net file photo, copyright 2011

When the announcement of Mama Pete’s passing was posted on Facebook, folks started to comment.  One person, Anthony Soldano, made the comment that “Sierra Madre should name a street after her.”  I think it’s an excellent idea.  Suffolk Ave. should be renamed “Mama Pete Street.”  I’m told by a staffer at Public Works that it’s a fairly simple process.  If City Council is behind it, maybe we can get it done.  Anybody else think it’s a good idea?

Mountain Views News is now reporting that services will be held at 10am Friday, June 21st at the Sierra Madre Community Center, 611 E. Sierra Madre Blvd.

Comments (11)

 

  1. Jeff Dapper says:

    Although Marjorie would probably abhor the double negative, I think renaming Suffolk, ” Mama Pete St. ” falls in the category of something we can’t, not do. I’ll pay for the signs if someone will call Google and let them know.

  2. Erma says:

    When my daughter was deployed to Iraq a few years ago, I needed a day care and Mama Pete was the only who took my Grandson, (because he would only be there for 9months).
    My Grandson and I went to meet her and the staff, and he didn’t want to leave! That was a great sign and left me happy and at ease, when I went to work.
    He still remembers Mama Pete and “his school” after 2 years.
    I am very sad that she passed. She is a legacy in Sierra Madre and she will be missed terribly by the children and all those who know here.
    I agree… we should rename the street “MAMA PETE STREET”
    God Bless her…

  3. kathy symons says:

    I agree about renaming Suffolk. Mama pete will be greatly missed she was an inspiration to me and my family as Girl Scout leader and Pre School director.

  4. Mary M. Brenner Borrelli says:

    I am so saddened to hear this news of our beloved Mama Pete. I am one of Mama Pete’s kids, I grew up in Sierra Madre and went to Mama Pete’s all through S.M.Elementary school. I lived at 50 W. Carter on the weekends, but lived on Suffolk the rest of the week. Mama Pete taught me how to swim in the big pool, she got me interested in Girl Scouting, yes we girls of troop 22 and 24 meet every summer for a day together. We always stopped in to see her when we were in Sierra Madre. Spent many a day in that nursery, remember Daddy Pete and his electric saw always building something new. Muriel, you and I playing in your play house, with a phone, playing board games the year you were sick. Danny was the tallest boy I had ever seen, I remember the year you grew too fast and had that cast on. Bee stings, skinned knee’s, morning story time with juice and of ofcourse The Rock. I looked forward to Mama Pete’s Christmas letter every year so much, I am so glad she has such a wonderful big family, Mama Pete was my second Mom for sure, I will miss her so very much.

    All my love and prayers to her family,

    Love, Mary Martha (Brenner) Borrelli

  5. Mama Pete was my great grandmother and I loved her dearly and visited very often. Even though my family and I live in Northern California we would love making the trip to see her. Reading this article brought me to tears and I know everyone in the family really appreciates all the kind words said in this article! I just want to thank you for writing and posting this. We plan on having a memorial sometime in July, if you like I can keep you posted on what we decide so the community of Sierra Madre can join in the celebration of her life!

    Thank you for the kind wishes,
    Kelly

    • Bill Coburn says:

      My condolences on your loss, Kelly. Yes, please do keep me apprised of what’s happening, I’ll be glad to help get the word out. Is this secondary to the one that’s since been announced for June 21st?

  6. Summer says:

    My daughter currently attends Mama Petes. We were so sad to hear about this news yesterday. Her family and everyone in the City of Sierra Madre are in my prayers. I think re-naming Suffolk Street to Mama Pete’s Street is an excellent idea! I feel lucky to have met her. What an amazing person!

  7. Cindy Peterson Platko says:

    Thank for the very nice article. She was not only the Mama Pete to Sierra Madre but a wonderful mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Her family will truly miss her. I will miss my grandmother.

  8. Sue Levoe says:

    Bill,
    “Mama Pete Street” would be amazing! I’m in. She was such an amazing woman. As a young mom, I left my kids with her and just intuitively knew they would be more than fine and well cared for. We were looking forward to our grandson starting there in the fall. I hope that can still be a reality. We will just have to work a little harder to let those new kids know why Mama Pete”s is such an amazing place.