Iola Peterson passed away August 2nd peacefully at home beside her husband Benny, 2 weeks short of her 91st Birthday. Iola Joan Estling was born to Carl Estling and (Hilda) Marie (Haugen) Estling near Boyd, MN on August 16, 1931. Iola was raised on a farm near Boyd where she helped with chores of a farm family and learned carpentry skills from her father who would supplement his farm income as a carpenter. Iola participated in softball as a pitcher and worked as a nurse aid before graduating from Boyd High School.
Iola met Benjamin Peterson at the roller-skating rink in Milan, MN. Benny happened to be managing the rink while the owners were on vacation and Iola came to the rink with some friends.From there they continued to enjoy many dates of roller-skating and local activities in the area. Benny and Iola were married on June 17, 1950, at Trinity Lutheran Church Boyd, MN by Benny’s father Rev. Andrew Peterson. They moved to Madison, MN where they lived in their first apartment and Benny worked as assistant manager of Madison Mill and Elevator. Soon Benny accepted an offer to manage the grain elevator in Louisburg, MN. While living in southern Minnesota all three children were born: Patricia, Gary and Craig.
Benny discovered he was allergic to grain dust and to remove himself from the daily exposure, Benny accepted a position as a field representative and Auditor for Benson-Quinn Grain Commission of Minneapolis. The position was based in Moorhead, MN and the family moved there in 1960.
It was a memorable day for the family when Benny and Iola came across the beautiful sandy south shore of Lake Eunice south of Audubon. They immediately fell in love with the lake and proceeded to purchase their piece of heaven on earth. Although the road was not yet far enough to service the parcel,they purchased, they blazed a trail through the woods to start clearing an area to build a structure. The first building project was an outhouse to serve not only its primary purpose, but also to serve as a storage facility for basic lot clearing tools and supplies. After lots of chopping and mowing, a path to the sandy beach was cleared. The next building project was a boathouse, to initially serve as sleeping quarters to allow overnight stays as nights got very dark when moonlight was hidden by clouds and there were too many mosquitos, a mouse or two and an occasional deer coming to the lake for a morning drink. Soon Lake Eunice became the family’s destination of choice in the summer months, with their Moorhead home serving as just a place to wash clothes, pick up mail and phone messages.
In 1969 Iola started working as Secretary for the Librarian at Concordia College, Moorhead. She also worked some evenings at the circulation desk at Concordia where she discovered several foreign students with unique struggles being so far from home. Soon, Concordia administration found the need for a person to assist foreign students with various issues including finances, winter survival, immigration, and temporary housing during school breaks. Iola was appointed as Concordia’s foreign student advisor and found her true calling. She continued this work well into her 70’s before she would retire. Through her long career, Iola shared her zest for life with students from many countries. She has even worked with two generations of families, advising one student from Japan early in her career and this student’s daughter years later.
Iola was an avid water skier, continuing her love for the sport past her 84th birthday. Her record was 45 minutes slalom skiing around the lake without stopping, which she accomplished around her 84th birthday. Only after a fall on her steps at home and a broken hip, at the age of 85, could keep Iola off her skis.
Around age 60, Iola and Benny decide to learn how to downhill snow ski, at the same time their oldest grandchildren were learning the skill. This provided another opportunity for family connections, conversations and a front-page picture on the Forum newspaper “The 6 skiing Petersons”.
Iola can be described as a survivor. In 1967, Iola was one of the first to undergo and survive open heart surgery,at Mayo Clinic,and approximately 30 years later she would be one of the lucky few to survive ovarian cancer. The cancer treatment left her with lymphedema, but this did not stop her from water skiing with her “big leg”. A broken hip can carry significant morbidity and mortality for someone in their 80s, but Iola recovered well. Although she was told not to do so, she was constantly raking leaves and occasionally trimming tree branches, from a ladder, with a chain saw. Later, Iola narrowly escaped a massive stroke thanks to Benny’s quick thinking and Sanford Clinic’s immediate attention to her symptoms.
Iola and Benny recently celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary.
Iola is survived by her loving husband, Benjamin Peterson, her three children Patricia (Peterson) Heisler (Bob Hovde), Gary Peterson (Deborah), and Craig Peterson (Rhonda). She leaves 10 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and 2 great great grandchildren.
The funeral service will be Monday, August 8, 2022, at 12:00 P.M., with visitation from 11:00 to 12:00, at The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Moorhead, MN. Interment will be at Prairie Home Cemetery, Moorhead.