Donald H. Peterson, Sr.

Colonel Donald H. Peterson (AF Ret.)
Oct. 22, 1933 – May 27, 2018
Born in Winona, Mississippi to Henry W. and Mabel Strickland Peterson, Don and his younger brother Gil grew up in a small town where everyone knew each other, all worked hard for a living, and were willing to give their neighbor a helping hand when needed. It was a simpler time, no AC, TV, computers or jet airplanes. Growing up Don loved to read, (mostly science fiction) and play outdoors using his vivid imagination; with friends he stayed in touch with his entire life. He would later tell his own children that as a young boy he had reoccurring dreams of flying, without the aid of wings or a plane, just soaring above the Earth. This dream set him on a quest for knowledge to discover the universe and its secrets.
It was while attending Winona High School that Don excelled in math and science. He credits his math teacher, Ruth Smith, with recognizing his gift and providing individual math instruction beyond the curriculum the small high school offered, enabling him to achieve the education needed for college admittance and scholarships.
His hard work paid off and after high school graduation he received an appointment to West Point. At the age of 17, Don boarded a train and headed out of his small Mississippi community to attend The Military Academy at West Point in New York. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1955 receiving his diploma from President Dwight D. Eisenhower and began his Air Force career. He would later earn his Masters Degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1962.
While serving in the Air Force and stationed in Greenville, Miss., Don met Bonnie Love. They married in 1957. They were together nearly 60 years and raised three children, Don Jr., Jean, and Shari. Later, their spouses, four grandchildren, and four great grandchildren would join in the family gatherings.
Don’s Air Force career would last 24 years until he retired with the rank of Colonel. During this journey, Don would achieve many accomplishments. He went to test pilot school at Edwards AF Base and in 1967 was one of the third group of astronauts selected for the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program.(MOL). When this program was canceled, Don became a NASA astronaut in 1969.
Don moved his family to El Lago, TX. to begin his NASA training. He would remain here until the day he died. While with NASA he served on the Apollo 16 Support Crew, and in 1983 flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS 6) with crew members Commander Paul Weitz, Pilot Col. Karol Bobko, and Dr. Story Musgrave. As a mission specialist, Don performed the first EVA, (spacewalk) along with Story Musgrave. He resigned from NASA in 1984 and began his own consulting firm for work involving manned aerospace operations.
He had a remarkable career, but Don would tell you his greatest joy was caring for and spending time with his wife and family. His favorite title was “Dad or Daggy”. He was an active supporter in all three of his children’s academic endeavors, sports teams, and other extracurricular activities. He encouraged them to set goals, put in the work to reach them, then set higher goals and keep at it. The sky was not the limit. He was proud of each of their accomplishments and never hesitated to tell them. Saying “I love you” came easy and often from him. This love continued through the next generation. He told his grandchildren, “holding them in his rocking chair was better than floating in space.” His unconditional love for all of them will be treasured always.
In his last years he liked spending time in his backyard on his swing sipping coffee or sweet tea and admiring his azaleas. He will be remembered as an honest, giving, caring, gentle man. Don died peacefully at home surrounded by his children. His family is comforted knowing his childhood dream of flying has been fulfilled in this life and hereafter.
Don is preceded in death by his parents; Henry W. and Mabel Peterson and his loving wife Bonnie Love Peterson.
He is survived by Brother; Gil Peterson, Children Don Jr. (JoAnn) Peterson, Jean (Bob) Stone, and Shari Peterson, Grandchildren; Shannon (Joe) Hathaway, Katie (Jordan) Senor, Max Stone and Jeff Stone, Great Grandchildren; Molly Kate and Macy Senor, and Laney and Ella Hathaway, Brother in law; Bill Jung, Nephews; Butch, Mike, and Sam Jung, and many other nieces, nephews and family members whom he loved dearly.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to his team of caregivers that enabled him to live out his life at home. Special thanks to Wanda, Brittney, and Candice and the Heart to Heart Hospice Care.
A Memorial Service will be held at Crowder Funeral Home, located at 111 E. Medical Center Blvd. Webster, TX. 77598 on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 11:00 A.M. with a reception immediately following.
In lieu of flowers, Don’s request is that you make a donation in his name to the charity of your choice. Don always believed “the more you gave, the more you had.”


  1. What an extraordinary life! Col. Peterson and his wife, Bonnie, were two of the kindest people I have ever met. As the sister of Mr. Peterson’s son-in-law, I have spent time with them on a few occasions. Everytime, Mr. Peterson was kind and patiently receptive to my many questions about outer space. I wish my husband had been as fortunate as I to meet him. My sincere condolences to his children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends. May he rest in peace with Mrs. Peterson, his loving wife.

    Vicki & David Watts
  2. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Peterson family. We remember Don Peterson fondly.

    Larry and Judy Weiss
  3. Although I’m recovering from surgery and unable to attend, I wish to express my love for Uncle Daggy and sadness at this loss. I love and miss you all dearly. I hope we can visit soon! We love you all!

    Megan,Russell, and Oz Long
  4. Our heartfelt condolences to Don Peterson’s family. May Don Rest In Peace. Jean and your brother and sister, hold on to the great memories you have of your dad. He was a great man. Now he and your mom are together again. May God grant them peace and rest. May you know that God is with you all and will give you strength and endurance during this difficult time. Love you, grandma

    Connie stone
  5. Don, Jr.,Jean, Shari & families,
    I am thinking of you with love & am so sorry to hear this news. I only learned about your Mom a few months ago. You know I loved them both & have thought of them so often. Sending hugs & love. Glenda

    Mary Glenda Hoover
  6. Peto, so sorry to hear of your Dads passing. The times I was around him, he was always so cordial, and he love his family, you and Joann, Shannon, and Katie. I’m sure he was always supportive of all the things, you and your sisters did. My thoughts, and prayers are with and your family, and sisters at this difficult time. He taught you lots, but the most important thing he taught you was to be a great friend. You excelled in that category! Thinking of you!
    Chuck McCarter

    Chuck McCarter
  7. My sincerest condolences. Praying peace and comfort for your family. I am a prior citizen of Winona, MS, now native Texan Who grew up just down Mission Road from Don’s parents and remember the excitement and pride we felt when he was named to space walk.

    Carla Sinquefield Duke
  8. I am so proud to say I came from the same town that Don did and remember his Dad well as I saw him quite often around town. We were blessed with people the character of Don’s parents and blessed with two their two fine boys that grew into outstanding men. Winona has always been so proud to be called the hometown of Don Peterson as he put us on the map. My prayers go out to Gil and all of the family. You will be in my thoughts as you go through these next days.

    Jean Nail McCarty
  9. I grew up in Winona, Ms! I remember how proud the citizens of this wonderful little town were, to have been home to this fine family. Congratulations and thank you to both of these men for their accomplishments and shining a light on Winona and their family! Prayers for the family! RIP Colonel Donald Peterson!

    Carla Brown Guyton
  10. We send our love and condolences. My mother and I traveled with your parents on a few ASE trips, and we always had a great time! And being from Mississippi myself, it is so sad to lose another “one of our own.” What great human beings your parents were, and such an example of Southern charm, wit, and graciousness. Your father was a true adventurer, and he did wonderful things in the space program. He will be missed by all. On behalf of the Roosa family, we send our deepest sympathy. But I just know they are all having “a cold one” and smiling down on us!
    Rosemary Roosa
    (Daughter of Stu and Joan Roosa – Apollo 14)

    Rosemary Roosa
  11. My thoughts and prayers to Mr. Peterson’s family and friends. He was a great man and the first real live Astronaut I met when we moved to El Lago. I remember attending his splash down party and lining the street with flags and signs when he came home from his shuttle mission when I was just 13. Mr. Peterson was always the first one to get his Christmas lights up and Pebblebrook knew once Mr. Peterson turned his one it was the ok to get ours out and up. Thank you for the memories Mr. Peterson and family. God Speed and God bless!

    Darin "Boot" Clark
  12. Sad news, tempered by the joy and pride we all felt at being associated with this kind, courageous man. Already deeply involved in space shuttle training, he took on the additional task in 1975 of mother-henning two dozen new USAF officers detailed to Houston to help prepare for operating the shuttle, and eventually, a hoped-for USAF version of it. I was one of them, and Don diplomatically tidied up the cultural clashes many of us [particularly me] had with NASA top management. while explaining to us the different behavioral expectations we faced. He also fielded our group’s personal crises [such as the tragic death of one officer’s wife and daughter in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver] with compassion and wisdom. He made a difference in every one of our lives, and in so many others. Just one more example. Years later, through my own space history research, I discovered how humanely he had ministered to the grief of the family of Major Robert Lawrence, a fellow USAF-MOL astronaut-trainee’s who was killed in training in 1967, and his kindness was vividly remembered decades later by Lawrence’s widow Barbara and their son Trace, who had become my own lifelong friends. All the lives he touched were blessed.

    James Oberg
  13. Prayers are with Shari, Jean, Don Jr. and the Peterson family. Thanks to Col Peterson for his outstanding service to our community and nation. Now soaring and surrounded by unspeakable love. God Speed!

    Tony Davison
  14. I am so heartbroken to hear of Don Peterson Sr. Passing. I loved that man! He was the smartest man I have ever known. Very often when he spoke of his theories and ideas on the universe, I did not know what the hell he was saying (over my head!) but I was impressed non the less.
    I loved his sense of humor. I always got tickled when he had a new Boudreaux and Thibodeau joke.

    My thoughts and prayers are for his whole wonderful family that I and my family love dearly! -Marra, Del, Cole & Reid.

    Marra Gunnells
  15. Don Sr. was one of my heroes, and I am so saddened by his passing.
    My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Don, Jean, and Shari, as well as his grandchildren.
    He was such an amazingly well rounded, thoughtful, insightful man, with a quick wit, and ready smile.
    Part of a phenomenal generation the world will never see again.

    David Jaderlund

    David Jaderlund
  16. Jean, Bobby, Forgive me for the late response. My sincerest sympathies on the passing of your father. Read your Dad’s bio about all his outstanding accomplishments; what a remarkable individual. Equally impressing was his love for family and his charitable ways. May God bless your father and your family. Roger Saucedo

    Roger Saucedo

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