Richard Peterson

November 16, 1930 - May 10, 2016
Grand Rapids, MI



Saturday, May 14, 2016
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EDT
First Evangelical Covenant Church
1933 Tremont NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


Saturday, May 14, 2016
11:00 AM EDT
First Evangelical Covenant Church
1933 Tremont NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp
4158 Camp Delight Rd
Onekema, MI 49675

Rich has been involved with the camp since his childhood.

Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Throughout his long, rich life, Richard Peterson committed himself to serving others. A man of deep faith, he served his country, his community, his church and his God, and was devoted to his family. Rich could always be counted on to lend a helping hand, to family and strangers alike, and with the help of his loving wife Donna, he built a legacy that stands as an example to all who knew him.

In 1930, the nation was reeling from the stock market crash of the previous year and just entering the darkest days of the Great Depression. It was the beginning of an era of trials and triumph and rapid change. It was also a time of joy in the lives of John “Helmer” and Elna Peterson as they welcomed the birth of their seventh child, Richard Allen Peterson, on November 16, 1930 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

With the exception of a few years spent in Northport, Michigan where his grandparents had a farm, Rich grew up mainly in Grand Rapids, where his family and his church instilled the virtues of faith and service that would come to define his life. The family attended the Evangelical Covenant Church, and was deeply involved in the church community. Rich’s father was instrumental in the development of Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp, a place that was important to Rich throughout his life. He attended the camp in his youth, and continued to work on projects at the camp as it developed. In later years, he and his family would visit the camp for summer vacations and meet up every three years for a large family reunion.

Rich was always close with his eight siblings, and he enjoyed the outdoors. As a young man, he exhibited an adventurous streak when he and some friends hitchhiked to the Upper Peninsula because they had never seen the straits before. He was always considered a good kid and graduated from Union High School in 1948. Rich met the love of his life, Donna Van Portfleet, when she came to church with a friend. They caught each other’s eye in youth group, and married on October 24, 1952.

Rich joined the Navy, and he and Donna moved down to Key West, Florida while he was stationed there. Once he was deployed on the USS Blair, Donna returned home to Grand Rapids, and Rich followed once his tour was up. Rich enjoyed his time in the Navy and was proud of his service. Once he returned home, Rich found work as an apprentice electrician. He would eventually work for Harlo Electric and finally retired from Allied Electric, two companies specializing in industrial and commercial construction.

Rich and Donna raised their children in their home on Graham NW, where they lived for over 50 years. As a father, Rich set his standards and his children knew what was expected of them. He was also an involved and attentive father, helping his kids out however they needed him, whether it was coaching his sons in little league, or helping on his daughter’s high school float. He was also there for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He built cradles for his grandchildren, made of reclaimed wood from the old church building. He loved holding them as babies, watching over them, and as they grew older, playing games and taking them fishing.

Rich enjoyed socializing and staying busy. Much of his social life revolved around church friends and activities. Some of those friends were near lifelong friends from high school who also attended the church. He was always deeply involved in the church, whether serving on boards or helping out behind the scenes. For several years, Rich and Donna also helped out with the Senior High youth group where they had first met. They also enjoyed helping out in the nursery during the weekly Bible study, and in later years, Rich volunteered driving others to appointments and to church.

Rich was also very handy and skilled. Some might say he was accident prone, always seeming to end up with stitches or a band-aid, but he could fix just about anything around the house, and was always eager to help others: from friends, to projects at the church and at the camp. Luckily, he had the support of Donna to help honor his many commitments! He also enjoyed fishing, whether he was taking trips to Canada with friends, or taking out his children and grandchildren. In retirement, Rich and Donna traveled a bit, but most every trip was to visit family members. He could laugh, sometimes even at himself, and even though he had a loud voice, he never used it to control or get attention.

About four years ago, Rich and Donna moved to Covenant Village. This past Sunday, he attended church as he had so many times through a life committed to faith and family. He passed away at his home on May 10, with his family near. Rich was a great father and grandfather, and for more than sixty years, a loving, devoted husband. He was also a faithful servant – a man whose faith ran deep and led his life. He will never be forgotten, and will be greatly missed by all those whose lives he touched.

Richard A. Peterson, age 85 of Grand Rapids, passed away May 10, 2016. Rich is survived by his wife, Donna; children Scott & Terry Peterson, Mark & Kelly Peterson, Susie & Fred Former; grandchildren Samantha & Nate Hartman, Jeffrey, Kyle, Kevin, Katelyn Peterson, Tim Former & Andres Aguilera, Krista & Nathan Oppenhuizen, Brian Former; great grandchildren Kessler and Kiersten Oppenhuizen; brother and sister Kent (Carla) Peterson, Eleanor "Eno" (Loren) Barber; sisters-in-law Nancy Peterson and Thelma Ford Peterson; many nieces and nephews. Rich was preceded in death by his brothers Roy, Carroll, Maurice and Don Peterson; and by his sisters, Helen Tigchon, Margaret Anderson, and infant sister, Elsie. A service to remember and celebrate Rich's life will be held on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 11 AM at First Evangelical Covenant Church, 1933 Tremont NW where friends may visit with his family from 10 AM until the service. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp are appreciated. To read more about Rich's life, to share a memory or to sign his guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com.