Cover photo for Thomas Peterson's Obituary
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1956 Thomas 2014

Thomas Peterson

January 27, 1956 — September 4, 2014

Choteau resident Thomas Lee Peterson, 58, died Sept. 4, 2014, at Great Falls Clinic Medical Center, surrounded by his family, after a short battle with esophageal cancer.

His funeral will be Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 11 a.m. at Gorder Jensen Funeral Home in Choteau. A luncheon/reception will follow at Choteau Country Club.

Tom was born on Jan. 27, 1956, in Glasgow to Ernest and Marguerite "Peggy" Peterson.

When he was 1, the family moved to Havre, where Tom attended St. Jude's Catholic Elementary School and Havre High School, graduating in 1974. He attended Eastern Montana College in Billings and later graduated from the University of Montana in 1991 with a degree in Business Finance.

Tom worked for BNSF Railway in Havre and then Missoula for many years. He taught scuba diving in Denver, Colorado, as well as in San Diego, California; he worked at a diving shop in Florida and co-owned an embroidery and sports apparel shop in Missoula. Tom even hitchhiked across Europe for several months, and spent a year in Ghana, Africa, where he helped establish a peanut factory.

As part of his college degree requirements, he prepared a business plan for a small barley malting plant and brew pub. In 1996, he came to Teton County -- known for its huge malting barley production, and in Choteau began to work with a partner on creating a malt plant. His venture did not work out, but another company got involved, took that idea and created a large malting company in Great Falls that is there today.

In Choteau, he met Julie Schwedhelm, and they were married in her backyard on Aug. 5, 2000, with her four children, Nate, Nicole, David and Brian, by their sides.

Also in 2000, Tom joined 3 Rivers Communications in Fairfield.

Thirty-eight years ago, Tom and a group of his friends got together for a Memorial Day campout at Yankee Jim Canyon on the Smith River. They called themselves the "ProFun" group and kept up this tradition every year since. Tom missed only one ProFun gathering, when he was in Africa.

Tom's chief love, however, was his children, following their sporting and school events, helping coach baseball and soccer, and helping with Mat Sharks. He served on the Choteau Baseball Commission for many years as the kids were growing up. He also loved the incredible beauty and outdoors of Montana.

Tom lived each day with an optimistic outlook and a sheer unflappability. He was known for his patience and his ability to look on the bright side. His constant companion in recent years was Tully Mars, his miniature Australian shepherd.

Tom's survivors include his wife, Julie, of Choteau; children, Nate (Marie) Lightner of Phoenix, Arizona, Nicole, David and Brian Lightner, all of Choteau; his sister, Cindy (Mike) Knudsen of Havre; his brothers, Hoover (Kathy) Peterson and David (Kristi) Peterson, both of Havre; and his nieces and nephews, Jamie McBryan, Michael Garrity, Kaylee Woodwick, Kinzee Peterson and Theron Peterson, all of Havre, and Sean Peterson, of Missoula; and many other relatives.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Gorder Jensen Funeral Home in Choteau is handling arrangements. Cremation has taken place and Tom's ashes were spread by his family.

Memorials are suggested to the Choteau Baseball Commission, P.O. Box 722, Choteau, MT 59422.

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