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Art Peterson, longtime Fall City business owner, passes away at 83
FALL CITY - Those who knew Art Peterson claim there likely was motor oil flowing through his veins.
For more than 40 years Peterson worked in Fall City's Model Garage as a mechanic, bookkeeper and owner. In his time at the garage he would meet thousands of people - one of whom would eventually become his wife - become friends with many and earn a reputation as a pleasant, quiet man who stuck to his convictions.
On March 17, Peterson passed away at Flora Ka's Villa Hospice in Bellevue. He was 83.
Peterson was born Feb. 5, 1921, in Fall City to Ludwig and Jennie Peterson. He was the fourth of six siblings.
Following graduation from Fall City High School in 1941, he went to work for his father who owned the Model Garage. Peterson didn't need any training as he'd been a mainstay at the garage for years, turning wrenches and getting his hands dirty.
One of the garage's customers in the late 1950s was Kathleen Davis, who had attended the same high school as Peterson. Davis had recently returned to the Valley with her three children after the dissolution of a marriage. She was at the garage often with her older vehicle.
Although it took Peterson a while to work up the courage to ask Kathleen out, he finally did and the two were eventually married in 1960.
"I liked the steadiness, the quietness and the fact that he liked my three kids and they liked him," said Kathleen. "My youngest couldn't wait for us to get married so he could call [Art] daddy."
One of Art's bigger interests was the Fall City Volunteer Fire Department.
In 1946, Art joined the department from which he would retire in 1982 having never missed a call.
Cousin Jack Kelley said Art never outwardly expressed why he was so devoted to the department, which was just part of his quiet persona.
"It was just his duty to do it," said Kelley. "He wasn't a flash in the pan, he was a solid guy."
Mack Pearson, former fire chief for Fall City, said in the 1970s making the $11,000 yearly budget last was difficult. The department always could count on Art to chip in when an engine needed a tune-up or repair.
Pearson said in his 25 years working in the department with Art, he came to know a man who was pleasant but strong willed when it came to something in which he believed.
"If [Art] took a stand on something, you weren't going to sway him very easily," said Pearson.
In 1972, Pearson was nominated for the post of chief. Art had nominated another firefighter and was loyal to his choice, recalled Pearson.
Although everybody wanted to vote for Pearson, including the other candidate, Art wouldn't relent and the vote was not unanimous.
Gene Stevens, who started hanging around the firehouse at age 14, said Art was a "nice, decent guy" known for his ability to keep the fire department supplied with water.
In those days, Stevens said, fire hydrants weren't readily available so the department grabbed water from streams, creeks and lakes. It was Art's duty to find the sources.
While in high school Stevens said he and 11 other guys would pile into his 1949 Ford and drive to the pass to work. When the vehicle broke down it not only meant Stevens would not get a chance to earn his $1 an hour, but neither would his friends.
"Art was very good about extending me credit," said Stevens.
Every week Stevens would show up at the garage on Friday and pay off a portion of his $80 repair tab, with sometimes as little as three, crumbled $1 bills in his hand.
Years later when Stevens asked Art for a loan to help purchase the Family Market in Fall City, the garage owner didn't think twice about lending the money.
In 1985, Art sold the Model Garage.
Kathleen said after spending so much time at the garage, it took Art about a year before he'd pay a visit to the business after the sale. After that, Art would go in through the back door when he visited the shop.
After retiring Kathleen and Art traveled many miles in their RV. When he wasn't on the road, Art spent mornings at Martinell's having coffee with friends.
A stroke following open-heart surgery in the late 1990s would leave Art without the ability to speak, but according to friends and family he continued to enjoy life.
"He was steady as a clock was," said Kelley. "He said he was going to do something and he'd do it exactly how he'd said."