Charles Fillmore Peterson

Peterson—Charles Fillmore Peterson, 98, on March 12, 2019, gently, with family near, in his apartment at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pa., of metastatic prostate cancer and renal failure. Charley was born on May 11, 1920, in Indianapolis, Ind., to Georgia Fillmore and Raymond Peterson, who were Disciples of Christ missionaries serving the Tibetan Christian Mission. He spent a good part of his childhood in Western China near the Tibetan border. When the Great Depression caused the mission to close, he finished his schooling in Lima, Ohio. He registered for the draft as a conscientious objector and attended the University of Southern California, where as a senior, he met Ruth Thomas, a visitor at a college class at his church. He told her that he was the class membership chairman and needed her name, address, and telephone number. (He was not the membership chairman.) They married in 1944. When the draft board changed his status to 1A, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and was allowed to finish his pharmacy degree and not required to take arms training or carry arms. He served as a medical officer during World War II on the front lines in Europe, where he was in charge of the litter bearers. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and finished his tour of duty in Europe as a medic by meeting the trains carrying the Holocaust survivors, giving whatever aid he could. His war experience, along with his strong Christian faith, contributed to his lifelong passion for peace activism.

He earned a doctorate from Purdue University and first taught at the University of Kansas and then at Temple University School of Pharmacy starting in 1956. He became a member of the Religious Society of Friends in 1971 after attending Abington (Pa.) Meeting for several years. The Friends seemed to meet his need to put his Christian faith into action. As he became more aware of the need to protect the environment, his concerns expanded to include the dangers of nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, and the military–industrial complex.

He served on the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Peace Committee, five years as clerk. In 1982, he helped organize the Pennsylvania Freeze campaign and served as the first chair of the board. Broadly, he worked with citizens to encourage the U.S. government to use peaceful strategies to prevent conflicts and war.

His abiding commitment to do the right thing guided him through his life. He retired from teaching in 1988, and after moving in 1995 to Pennswood Village, joined the Bucks County Chapter of the United Nations Association (UNA). He attended annual meetings of UNA in Washington, D.C., and UN meetings in New York; wrote letters to the editors of local papers; and marched for peace. At Buckingham Meeting’s autumn Peace Fair, he could always be found at the UNA booth, handing out literature and greeting friends.

A good friend and a wonderful listener who gave the best hugs, he loved singing, square dancing, gardening, and travel. He lived and loved fully and was funny, warm, and most of all, kind. On January 18, 2019, he and Ruth celebrated their seventy-fifth wedding anniversary. Four days later, a CT scan revealed his illness.

He is survived by his square dance partner and wife, Ruth Thomas Peterson; four children, Thomas Peterson, Tim Peterson, David Peterson, and Georgia Peterson; and one grandchild.

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