Ruth Norma Peterson

We are sad to announce the passing of Dr. Ruth Peterson, one of our dedicated board members.

From her obituary:

Born: March 11, 1936
Died: September 12, 2015

Ruth Norma Peterson, 79, of DeKalb, Illinois, passed away at home surrounded by family Saturday, September 12, 2015. She preached her last sermon on August 2 as she and her husband, John Gordon Peterson, completed their eighth interim pastoral ministry following 38 years together in campus ministry at Northern Illinois University and two at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Ruth received her undergraduate degree at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota and her Master of Religious Education and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, where she was the longest-serving member of the board of trustees.

She served at all levels in the American Baptist Women's Ministries and in a variety of positions on the General Board of American Baptist Churches, USA, including two terms on the executive committee. Locally, she served on the leadership team of the Duck Soup Coop, was a president of the DeKalb County League of Women Voters, and an active member of First Baptist Church of DeKalb serving as a Sunday school teacher, family-night program teacher and pastor of the annual Church Day Camp at the Walker farm. She taught English as a Second Language by assisting in a Kishwaukee College class for recent arrivals to the U.S.

Ruth and her husband were key leaders in establishing the DeKalb County Migrant Ministry. For several years in the 1960s, they took university students to Mississippi to establish a cooperative for poor black farmers, hold the first county-wide integrated youth rally, and assist in voter registration and community development through the Tallahatchie Development League.

She, with her husband, received several awards — the Evangelism Award (1975) of American Baptist Churches in the Great Rivers Region, Northern Seminary Alumnus and Alumna Award (1993), the national American Baptist Newton Fetter Campus Ministry Award (1997), the Northern Illinois University Office of Student Services 1998 Recognition Award, the 1999 Student Volunteer Corps of Northern Illinois University Certificate of Recognition Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Community Service, and the 2003 Kishwaukee Community College Spotlight on Service Award for teaching English as a Second Language in the Adult Basic Education program. On October 11, 2008, the University of Sioux Falls awarded Ruth and her husband the Firman A. Early Distinguished Ministry Award.

Ruth served for many years on the executive committee of Friends of Burma, Inc., and traveled twice to Burma, one time briefly teaching classes at the Myanmar Institute of Theology, as well as informal classes in English. During an interim ministry in Moline, the church welcomed 50 Burmese Karen refugees via camps in Thailand.

Ruth's family includes her husband, John Gordon Peterson of DeKalb; daughter, Joy Dawn Peterson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and daughter, Jaia (Doug) Peterson Lent and grandson Grail of Baltimore, Maryland. In addition, several "adopted" collegians became part of the family: Florence Mayengo Nlandu and her son, Noah, of Lake Villa, Illinois; Naw May Pearl of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and John and Wai-Chin Matsuoka of Westmont, Illinois.

Ruth was preceded in death by her parents, the Rev. Martin and Martha DeBoer; sister, Lillian Ostrander; and "adopted" daughter, Florence Mayengo Nlandu.

The memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, September 19, at First Baptist Church, 349 South Third Street, DeKalb. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, September 18, at Anderson Funeral Home, DeKalb. Born into a bilingual home, Ruth first publicly committed her life to Christ in the German Baptist Church and her ashes will be buried in the Corona Baptist Cemetery in Corona, South Dakota. Cremation is by Anderson Funeral Home Crematory.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be directed to Friends of Burma, Inc., 548 Home Avenue, Fort Wayne, IN 46807 (, or The Baptist Campus Ministry, 449 Normal Road, DeKalb, IL 60115.

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