Outdoor News founder Peterson passes away

Editor

Maple Plain, Minn. Outdoor News founder and longtime publisher
James Theodore Peterson passed away peacefully in his sleep on
Saturday, Jan. 17. He was 83.

Peterson grew up near Milaca and his family owned a cabin on
Lake Mille Lacs for many years. Jim came to the Twin Cities in the
late 1930s to play football for the University of Minnesota where
he attended journalism school. He was an All-American tackle for
the Gophers in 1941.

“A lot of people didn’t know this about Jim, but he was a state
champ football player in high school, and he went on to become a
big-time tackle at the U,” said Steve Peterson, Jim’s nephew, of
Spicer.

Thanks to bad knees from playing football and a case of asthma,
Peterson didn’t fight in World War II like his brothers. Instead,
he covered some of the war effort through his reporting at the Star
Tribune. When editors realized Peterson’s passion for football, he
went to work in the sports department.

After graduating from the university in 1943, Peterson worked as
a reporter with the Star Tribune where he covered sports. Following
a lengthy career in the sports writing department at the Star
Tribune, Peterson left the paper and started the regional outdoors
sports paper “Outdoor News” in 1968. He served as editor and
publisher of the newspaper until selling it to current Publisher
Glenn Meyer in 1987.

“Jim was one of a kind. He touched a lot of people through his
writing over the years,” Meyer said this week upon hearing of
Peterson’s passing. “All sportsmen and women in this state owe him
a debt of gratitude for the time, and frankly, the life he
dedicated to Minnesota’s outdoors scene.”

Following the sale of Outdoor News, Peterson retired and lived a
fairly reclusive lifestyle, at least compared to the very public
persona readers had seen every week. Though he frequently attended
the Fur, Fin and Feather Club meetings in Crystal and Golden
Valley, of which he was a lifelong member, Peterson mostly was
content to spend his late years fishing. He had perpetually bad
knees, and poor health ultimately confined him to a nursing care
facility in June, 2002.

In late December, his health declined further and doctors
discovered cancer in his gall bladder, which they removed.
Unfortunately, it also had spread to his liver, which is
terminal.

“That was just three weeks ago when they did that emergency
operation, and he went very fast,” Steve Peterson said. “The good
news is that he didn’t suffer, but died peacefully.”

Those who knew the frail Jim Peterson later in life probably
didn’t realize that Jim was a big man in his younger days.

“He was tall and weighed more than 300 pounds for most of his
life,” Steve Peterson said. “My dad and others from his generation
tell me Jim was a real big boy in high school.”

In 2000, the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame recognized
Peterson’s work on the state fishing scene by inducting him into
its inaugural class.

“I’ve been able to make a good living and been able to enjoy
every minute of the outdoors,” Peterson said at his induction. “I
got to travel all over the North American continent fishing and got
paid for it.”

He is survived by several siblings, a granddaughter, and several
nieces and nephews. Steve Peterson said Jim would always remain
most proud of his newspaper work and his founding of Outdoor
News.

“Jim lived an interesting life, and you never knew when he might
show up at your door,” Steve Peterson said. “After he retired, he’d
travel to fishing tournaments or you’d see him at sport shows
occasionally.”

Steve Peterson said the family had planned a private graveside
ceremony at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Milaca on Friday, but that
no funeral was planned.

The family requests that memorials be sent to the American
Cancer Society, c/o James T. Peterson, 3316 W. 66th St.,
Minneapolis, MN 55435.

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