Arnold Thobias Peterson, 92, of rural Keene, N.D., passed away Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Watford City where he had been a resident for the last several years, with family members at his bedside.
We celebrate his life, which began October 14, 1924, at his parents homestead site in Bear Den Township, southeast of Watford City. He was born to Tillie and Martin Peterson. He was their only child. Arnold’s father died when he was only 1 1/2 years old, so he became a rancher and farmer at a very early age. Later, he would tell his family that he learned how to drive a team of horses before he started grade school. He attended elementary grades at Williams school and graduated valedictorian of his class from Watford City High School in 1942.
Arnold married his high school sweetheart, June Mathistad, on December 7, 1946. They were happily married for over 67 years, rarely spending a day apart. He had dreams of becoming a pilot, but due to his father’s death, he remained on the homestead.
After working for the McKenzie County Road Department for 34 years, he retired to a life spent mostly outdoors. While working for the Road Department full time, he also farmed and ranched full time, making 80+ hour weeks a common occurrence. Despite his work schedule, Arnold enjoyed many hobbies, including woodworking. He made all of the cabinets in their house, and was the “go-to guy” whenever any family member needed something built. He was always ready and willing to help his family, doing the job without fanfare. He was very innovative, designing and manufacturing tools as he needed them for his projects. After he retired, as grandchildren came along, he was never too busy to give rides on the “old Ford tractor”. Another area of interest for him was transplanting trees. It is estimated that he transplanted over 1,000 trees from various coulees to empty pastures and fields. His children and grandchildren now enjoy the fruits of that labor.
Arnold enjoyed everything outdoors - except snow! He had spent too many long hours plowing roads open to ever develop any friendship with the white stuff. Arnold remained on the farm for 80 years, until moving to the Horizon Apartments in 2004. Even at 80 years of age, he was not interested in “moving to town”. With much encouragement from his family, he eventually agreed to the move, but, as he put it, “I was never happy about it”! The land had always been close to Arnold’s heart. While at the Horizon, Arnold was frequently asked by the residents and staff to fix things, a task that he thoroughly enjoyed. They then transitioned to the Good Shepherd Home, where they made more acquaintances and renewed old friendships.
In his later years, Arnold spent many hours working on bird feeders and wind “whirly-gigs”. He took great joy in sharing his feeders with other residents and staff, becoming known as “the bird man”. Staff would tell his family stories of his “bird work”. They always knew where he had been by following the trail of birdseed! Arnold had an ongoing feud with the squirrels, trying to keep them out of the bird feeders. He even had a system designed to roust the squirrels from the feeders from inside his room. Needless to say, Arnold developed quite a workshop in his small room. He had jars of nuts and bolts, hand and power tools - he even smuggled a small butane torch into his room so that he could solder when needed.
Arnold loved to play games, especially bingo and Chinese Checkers. At Chinese Checkers, many challenged him, very few beat him. Arnold’s most recent area of interest was watching the construction of the new health center, sometimes right outside his window. He would take pride in identifying equipment being used, and why.
Arnold was preceded in death by his wife and parents.
He is survived by his son, Ron (Ann); daughter, Sheila Turner (Bob); son, Wayne (Jo Ann); and daughter, Ardyce Alveshere (Lloyd); 11 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren.
In keeping with Arnold’s wishes, cremation will take place. A celebration of Arnold’s life will be held at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, March 18, 2017, at First Lutheran Church in Watford City. Private family inurnment will be at a later date in the Silent City Cemetery, rural Keene, N.D.
Fulkerson Stevenson Funeral Home of Watford City, N.D. is assisting the family. In lieu of flowers please make memorials to ones charity of choice. Thank you.