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Harry F. PetersenFebruary 27, 1933 ~ October 9, 2017 (age 84)
Harry (“Pete”) Frederick Petersen, III at age 84 was returned to God through his death on October 9, 2017 in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Born in 1933 in Cedartown, Georgia of the Rev. Harry F. Petersen, Jr and Mary Ford Little Petersen, he was baptized by Rev. Peter Marshal of Scotland, friend of his father.
He was educated at Darlington School, Rome, Georgia, 1945-1951 where he excelled in football. Offered full football scholarships to many major universities, he chose to attend Davidson College in North Carolina where his playing days ended in a football knee injury the second week of his attendance. Through this trauma, while working as a Gate Boy at Montreat Conference Center in summer of 1954, he was called to ministry and attended Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur Georgia after his college graduation.
At seminary, a thread of his ministry to and with international persons began when he helped new Korean and Japanese students with their luggage and became fast friends. After his MDiv degree from Columbia, he received a ThM degree from Princeton Theological Seminary where his closest friends were fellow students from Egypt, India and Trinidad. After Princeton, Pete attended New College of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Through his studies there and travels in Europe, the Holy Land and the Middle East his worldview expanded.
He married Martha Jane Morgan of Rock Hill, South Carolina, a graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia and Cornell University School of Nursing in New York City.
The Rev. Dr. James S. Stewart of New College performed the ceremony on July 4, 1960 in Edinburgh, where Pete was completing his studies. The couple returned to the United States where Pete served as Presbyterian campus minister for two years at the University of South Carolina. There he reached out to many international students, and helped them form a men’s soccer team which eventually became a varsity sport on campus.
Pete’s international outreach extended to Taiwan with Martha Jane as Presbyterian (USA) mission co-workers, 1962-65. He led and supported university student groups and taught Bible. Their first two children were born in Taiwan. Upon returning to the United States, Pete founded Christmas International House (CIH), a hospitality ministry sponsored by churches of several denominations who hosted international students and families having no place to go during Christmas holidays. The welcoming churches provided bed and board along with entertainment, tours and friendship across cultures. For 50 years, 20,000 students participated along with over 100 churches as hosts. Because of this ministry, Pete was called to begin Villa International Atlanta, again a hospitality ministry and a “home away from home” for international medical personnel doing short-term research at the nearby Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both CIH and Villa International sought to express the compassion of Christ through medical advances, peace-making and friendship evangelism. The Petersens international outreach continued when they served as mission co-workers in Ghana and Nigeria, West Africa for thirteen years. Their third child was born in Ghana.
In 1982, Pete returned to Villa International as Executive Director until his retirement in 2000. While there, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2000, and awards in outstanding work in human relations by the Dekalb County Community Relations Commission in 1987and by the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta in 1995. Upon his retirement, he and Martha Jane moved to Black Mountain, NC. From there he served two small Presbyterian churches in Walnut and Hot Springs and shared the pulpit with Martha Jane at Siloam Presbyterian Church near Old Fort until 2015.
He also took up knitting, derived from his boyhood experience of knitting scarves for American soldiers during World War II, and created innumerable gifts in yarn for friends and family. In the last ten years of his life, Pete wrote his life story of 4500 pages for his children and grandchildren, including maps, photos, letters and entries from family members. Additionally, the volumes have been accepted into the libraries of Darlington School, Davidson College, Columbia Theological Seminary and Montreat Presbyterian Heritage Center. The work is entitled The Enduring and Compassionate Providence of God: an Example, and exemplifies his belief that in life and death we belong to God.
He is survived by his wife and sweetheart of 57 years Martha Jane Morgan; Harry Frederick, IV of Kennesaw, GA, (wife Mona Banks and daughter Priscilla George); John Morgan of McLean VA, (daughter Kate Elizabeth and son Matthew John); and daughter Martha Lynne of Black Mountain NC and her children Joseph Morgan and Nadine Lynne; additionally his sister Louise Petersen Caldwell of Harrisonburg VA; brother-in-law Ben A. Morgan and wife, Judy, of Leesburg VA; and four nieces and two nephews.
A memorial Service will be held in Black Mountain Presbyterian Church (USA) on Saturday, October 21, at 2:00pm. with Pastor Keith Grogg of Montreat Presbyterian Church officiating along with Dr. Fahed Abu-akel, 2002 Moderator of the Presbyterian USA Church, Dr. Erskine Clarke, retired professor of church history, Columbia Theological Seminary, Rev. Merriam Alexander and Dr. Carol A. Wood. A scattering of his ashes will take place at the Memorial Garden of Montreat, NC which lies across Flat Creek where Pete, as a 1954 Gate Boy was called to Christian ministry. Memorials may be made to Villa International Atlanta, 1749 Clifton Rd., NE, Atlanta GA30329, or Christmas International House, 3434 Roswell Rd., NW, Atlanta, GA 30305.