volunteer story

Tom Petersen

The sandhills of western Nebraska – the “great American desert”—seems an unlikely beginning for a man who now makes his home on the shores of Glen Lake. 

But ever since his wife Jean “dragged me up here” 50 years ago, “it’s been a place of peace and safety,” said Tom Peterson, a Share Care volunteer.

“I drive people to medical appointments and take side trips to do errands.  I’ve met some interesting people and had marvelous conversations,” he said.

Tom’s life has been one of service – and, in some ways, contradictions. 

“I joined the Navy in 1967 and stayed for 26 years,” he said including tours in Vietnam with a specialty in ordnance and on a Riverine Squadron. 

After leaving the Navy, Tom and his family moved to South Dakota.

“I ran my own business – I’m a certified locksmith,” he said.  “I was also the county emergency manager and a part-time deputy sheriff.”

That last role brought him face-to-face with a life-changing experience.

 “One day there was an incident in which I had to choose whether to shoot someone,” he recalled.

In the aftermath of that event, he decided to become a Methodist pastor.  “I had been playing Jonah and something hit me upside the head.”

He was ordained in 2004 and went on to serve churches in southeastern South Dakota.

“These smaller rural churches, you really develop relationships with people that become part of who you are,” he said.  Tom and Jean are members of the Empire United Methodist Church where he preaches sometimes, but “works very hard not to do anything to threaten the pastor.”

Tom’s leadership and service to the community has also been expressed by his 50 years of involvement with the Boy Scouts and his current work with the local Lions Club.

When he’s not doing for others, Tom has a very specific hobby.

“I play with trains,” he said.  “N scale model trains which are 1/160th real size. I once built a railroad in a brief case.”  Now he’s building one on a 36” wide door. 

“We just adopted a cat.  I don’t know whether or not he will like it.”

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