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MHCC Patron Saint dedicated decades of service to improving Gresham by serving on boards.

Mary Zoe (Petrik) Petersen could be found volunteering on Gresham boards and service organizations because she was motivated to improve her community.

"Mary, that's her personality. She would look at an organization, and say 'how can I make it better?'" her husband Larry Peterson recalled. "That was always her goal to make it better. To make it work so it's important to the community."

Mary died on Saturday, Feb. 23, after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 81.

Before the diagnosis in 2008, she volunteered with a plethora of Gresham civic service organizations. She served with the American Association of University Women; Soroptimist International of Gresham; the Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center Foundation board of trustees; was a president of Mt. Hood Community College Foundation and volunteered on the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival board.

In 1986, she was recognized for her efforts when she was awarded the Women of Distinction award for "Women helping Women" by Soroptimist for her work with the "Women Keys to the Future" program.

In 1998, she was named "Patron Saint" by Mt. Hood Community College. The college names a "Patron Saint" every year for an individual who actively volunteers in the community.

She was awarded the Gresham Citizen of the Year by the Gresham Chamber and Gresham Board of Realtors in 1990.

The honors weren't why Mary volunteered.

"She didn't keep a high profile, and she didn't seek recognition, but recognition followed her because she was really good at what she did," Larry said.

Before settling in Gresham in 1975, Mary was a school teacher at Portland's Peninsula Elementary School for four years. Mary and Larry moved to Seattle in 1970, but returned to the Portland area five years later.

They purchased Gresham Optical, 2150 N.E. Division St., across from Gresham Golf Course, and operated the business for 30 years before selling the practice to the optometrist who worked for them.

Larry recalled enjoying every aspect of his wife's personality.

"She was my partner, and she was a great partner in life and in business," Larry said. "You know when you work with somebody that closely for over 30 years you have to get along. And we did. There were some rough spots, but we came out OK."

About Mary Zoe Petersen

Mary Zoe (Petrik) Petersen was born June 14, 1937, in Glasgow, Mont., to Ivan and Bessie Petrik. Her family moved to Portland in 1939.

Petersen died Saturday, Feb. 23. She was 81.

In 1955, she graduated from Jefferson High school in Portland. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Lewis and Clark College in 1959, where she also met her future husband Larry Petersen. The couple was married in August 1960.

Mary is survived by her husband; her son Eric and daughter-in-law Kirsten Petersen, daughter Zoe Ann Petersen and son-in-law Michael Williams; Grandchildren Lauren and Mikaela Williams, Cade Petersen. Sisters Sharon (Petrik) Neal and Anita (Petrik) Brandon.

A celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 6, at Mt. Hood Community College's Vista Dining Room, 26000 S.E. Stark St., Gresham. Contributions in memory may be made to the Alzheimer's Association-Donate to Fight memorial fund at act.alz.org/donate.


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