Flags at were at half staff Wednesday in honor of former Mayor John Peterson.
Peterson, 71, died Sunday in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where he and wife Mary had lived since his retirement in 2009.
Peterson was village president from 1993 to 1997 and was also active in the community as a board member and member of the Lions Club and Rotary Club, according to his obituary.
Former village trustee Jeff Dement remembered Peterson’s style as mayor as “proactive.”
Dement, who was also Peterson’s neighbor, described the former official as “very conscientious and very concerned with the village.”
“He obviously had a love of Plainfield,” Dement said, adding Peterson was mayor during the post-tornado years, when the village began growing from a sleepy town of 4,500 residents to a booming suburb.
“Everyone was realizing that now Plainfield was on the map,” Dement said. “It was a rebuilding time, which allowed for a lot of development.”
Under Peterson’s leadership, the village board worked to determine what type of residential and commercial developments should shape Plainfield in the years to come, according to Dement.
“He was a very forward-thinking person,” Dement said. “Sometimes the board loved his suggestions and sometimes they didn’t, but he was always very proactive.”
Architect, historian and Plainfield Patch columnist Michael Lambert said one of Peterson’s most notable contributions to Plainfield was solidifying the boundary between the village and nearby Bolingbrook.
“Bolingbrook made a move to go all the way to Route 30,” Lambert said. “That’s probably one of his most enduring legacies.”
Lambert, who served on the board during Peterson’s years as mayor, remembered Peterson’s sometimes controversial column in the Enterprise newspaper, which he often used to test out some of his ideas for shaping Plainfield.
“He wrote his weekly column faithfully,” Lambert said. “He wasn’t afraid to try new things,” Lambert added, saying some of his ideas took hold, while others “went over like a lead balloon.”
Village planning department employee Merrilee Trotz, who worked as a secretary at Peterson's law firm for 18 years, said he called the columms "trial balloons."
“He absolutely loved Plainfield,” Lambert said, of Peterson's adopted hometown, adding that he was an advocate or preserving the village's history.
"Although the [Historic Preservation Commission] did not get formed under John's administration, he certainly kept the discussion alive, advancing the cause as far as he could," Lambert added. "John loved Plainfield and its history."
Peterson was born to the late John Peterson and Catherine (Kehoe) Peterson in New Britain, Connecticut, growing up in Newington, Connecticut.
He studied at St. Francis College (now the University of New England) in Biddeford, Maine, and DePaul Law School in Chicago before settling in Plainfield, where he practiced law for 35 years.
Trotz said Peterson often represented local farmers.
"He was a very good attorney, very moral, loyal," remembered Trotz, who also served as Peterson's secretary at Village Hall after coming to work for the village in 1996.
Peterson is survived by his wife of 48 years, Mary, and children Mary (Patrick) Yost of Ossining, New York, Elizabeth (Richard) Beinhauer of Naperville and John Peterson of Walworth, Wisconsin.
Mayor Mike Collins said he ordered the flags at Village Hall lowed to half-staff Wednesday after learning of Peterson’s death.
A private family memorial service was scheduled.