Jean Austin Peterson passed away peacefully at the age of 100 on March 25, 2023, with members of her family by her side. She was a much loved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend, who lived in Ames for more than 70 years, actively participating in many aspects of civic life. She was a long-time member of the League of Women Voters and served as president of the Ames chapter. She initiated a foreign exchange program at the high school, co-directed a state project on juvenile justice, and served as president of the Board of Youth and Shelter Services. Other boards she served on included Story County Mental Health, United Way, YWCA, Ames Foundation, Friends of the Octagon, Town and Gown, the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association Guild, and Friends of the Library. She helped to found the Mary Greeley Hospital Auxiliary and worked as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, the Red Cross Blood Bank, and the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Fellowship. She was an avid reader who belonged to several book discussion groups, including the Eggheads, in which she participated for nearly seven decades. She also spent many happy hours playing bridge and tennis with her friends. Always on the lookout for opportunities that would enrich the lives of her five children and nine grandchildren, her influence on them was incalculable.
Born on December 9, 1922, Eleanor Jean, as she was then known, was the only child of Lyle and Laura (Baumgartner) Austin of Boscobel, Wisconsin. The family moved to Kennebec, South Dakota, where she began school, and later moved to Preston, Minnesota, where she went to high school. Jean went to St. Olaf College and then to the University of Minnesota, to complete a degree in nursing. There she met a handsome medical student named Elroy Peterson. They were married during WWII, and their first home together was at the Coronado Naval Base near San Diego, California. After the war, they lived in New Haven, Connecticut, and Fargo, North Dakota, before Elroy joined the McFarland Clinic in Ames. Throughout their lives, Jean and Elroy loved traveling, from exploring the United States on car camping trips with their children, to Elder Hostels and other learning tours, to a wide variety of trips throughout the world.
Jean was predeceased by her husband Elroy, her son Mark, and her granddaughter Maya. She is survived by her four daughters, Jane, Polly, Ann, and Martha; her sons-in-law Wolfgang Muller, Jon Solins, and Tony Warning; her daughter-in-law Indira Peterson; her grandchildren Daniel Muller (Laura Stuart), Alec Muller (Katie Davey), Joanna Solins, Paul Warning (Natalie), Erik Warning (Stefanie Reed), Sara Warning, Andrea Hill (Sean Beyers), and Tyler Hill; and her seven great-grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames at 2:30 pm on June 17, 2023. Donations in honor of Jean may be made to Youth and Shelter Services , Reimann Gardens, Southern Poverty Law Center , or Doctors Without Borders , or to your preferred charity.