Henry “Hank” Peterson, a cherished member of the community who hosted countless school groups at his sugar house and enjoyed driving his farm equipment around town, has died.
“Hank was just part of the scene, the farming scene we all love in Londonderry. We would have preferred that he remain part of the scene for another 100 years,” said Andrew C. Mack Sr., a longtime friend, whose farm worked with Peterson to harvest his maple syrup each season.
“Reminiscent of the Londonderry of the past, Hank personified that to the people of Londonderry as he drove up the road with his hay barrel or cutting machine,” Mack said.
“He was the kind of person who, even when he was not feeling good, found a way to get on that tractor,” said Sandy Coulombe, who worked with Peterson for more than 15 years, particularly during the sugaring season. “Even though he came from Wisconsin, he was a typical Yankee.”
Born in Hurley, Wis., in 1932, Peterson was raised on his family’s farm, then joined the Wisconsin National Guard in the 725th Engineer Battalion and traveled the world.
“You just knew there was going to be some anecdote proffered when you were in company with Hank. He always had stories to tell,” Mack said. “One of the things he told me that interested me the most, being a traveler in India, was Hank years ago operated a bulldozer working on one of the highest roads in the world, a road that runs between Pakistan and India, up in the Himalaya. That made me all the more loving of the guy.”
The National Guard took Peterson all over the United States and overseas to British Columbia and Chile, where his job was to teach the Chilean Army how to shoot down avalanches with artillery.
In 1962, Peterson married Anne Kaiser Davis of Brockton, Mass., and started working for a commercial snow removal company specializing in airports and railways. That work took him all over the country, and to Turkey, Switzerland and India.
Peterson and his family moved to Londonderry in 1978, where he went back to his roots and resumed farming, raising beef cows, putting up hay in the summer, and working at Mack’s Apples in the fall harvest season and sugaring at Peterson Sugar House in the spring.
“He was a really good representative for the maple syrup business. He gave countless tours for kindergarten and preschool kids,” Coulombe said. “He was a great advocate because he not only spoke to the kids, but also any adults who came along with them, and involved them. When we had Maple Weekend, we would have so many people come through and he would answer questions. He was the expert.”
Coulombe said Peterson also enjoyed serving as a judge for Mack’s Apples’ annual Apple Pie Contest, and in recent years helped Andy Mack Jr. emcee the event and assisted the judges with the rules and regulations for the community event.
“He just had that very, very strong character. He obviously enjoyed working with and doing things for people,” Mack said. “We will miss him immensely.”
Also close to Peterson’s heart was the Londonderry Grange, which he served as Master from the mid-‘80s until his death.
He was a fixture at the Grange’s spring plant sale and fall wreath sale, and served as a mentor to many Boy Scouts who completed projects with him.
Bill Perry, Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 521, who will take over where Peterson left off in managing the Grange, said the boys learned a lot through their internships.
“The boys worked for him on his farm producing maple syrup in the fall and haying in the summer. He was a great inspiration in terms of teaching these young men various skills,” he said.
“He was the force behind the Grange. Back when I joined, there were only four members, and over the years he kept the Grange alive,” member Cherylann Pierce said.
Perry said the last big project Peterson completed at the Grange was, reluctantly, cutting down a large maple tree in the front of the property with his son and Eagle Scout, Andrew Perry.
Peterson took a cross-cut of the maple to the University of New Hampshire Co-op Agricultural Center, which he worked with often over the years. He brought the wood back to the Scouts to share that the tree was found to be 119 years old.
Perry plans to mount the wood on a plaque to hang at the Grange in honor of Peterson.
“He definitely will be missed. He was a great inspiration to the Grange, the Troop and the Town,” he said.
See obituary this page.