Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Peterson Tragedy, But with a Twist

I don't know if the "Peterson" thing has become an obsession or if it is a coincidence that I keep coming across more stories on Petersons and tragedies. This story of Petersons and tragedies is slightly different than the others, thank goodness, in that it does not involve death. At least not the death of a Peterson. Consider this life story:
Coach Paul Peterson is from Sacramento, California, where he graduated from Mira Loma High School in 1991. Following high school, he attended Butte Junior College and worked with his father at Peterson Candy Company. In 1992 he joined the United States Army where he served in the Mechanized Infantry aboard M2A1 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. After serving in the Army, Coach Peterson moved to Jacksonville and attended FCCJ before attending Jacksonville University. In 1997, Coach Peterson joined the inaugural football team at JU and played inside linebacker. In 1998, he began his coaching career as a student assistant linebacker coach for JU. In 1999 and 2000 he coached defensive line at Terry Parker High School and helped the team earn a district championship. Coach Peterson began teaching at Bolles in 2001 as a student teacher. After earning his Bachelor's degree in Physical Education from JU in 2001, he was hired by Bolles as transportation coordinator and he served as an assistant football coach and weight trainer. He coached various positions while at Bolles. Just before coming to Providence, he was the Head Coach of the Junior Varsity Team and the Assistant Offensive Line Coach of the Varsity Team. During his time with Bolles, Coach Peterson helped the team earn three state Championships. He teaches Physical Education at Providence School. He and his lovely wife Brandie have been married for 14 years.
Sounds like a boy-next-door story, doesn't it? But there is more to the Paul Peterson story than this idyllic summary from Zoom Info.

Peterson's story doesn't end there, with him coaching at Providence School in Jacksonville, Florida. And a lot more happened between 1992 and 1997 than just Paul attending Jacksonville University.

The triple tragedy in Paul Peterson's life occurred when he was only 22 years old, in 1994. Here is a section of how a Jacksonville newspaper wrote the story in 1998:
When Jacksonville University's linebackers don't feel like practicing, or find themselves dogging it, they need not go very far for motivation.

It only takes one glance at student assistant coach Paul Peterson to get the Dolphins going again. Peterson, 26, is a walking testament that you can't take things for granted.
Peterson joined the Army after playing one year of junior college football at Butte College in California. He left following his freshman year after succumbing to the party lifestyle. 
While stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, he met Brandie, who was serving at the Air Force Academy. They met on a Thursday night, Oct. 28, 1993. They were married less than three weeks later.

[TRAGEDY #1] Still in their honeymoon period, Paul received a call from his parents on the morning of April 2, 1994, that his grandmother had died. Later that afternoon, he and Brandie went to see one of Paul's platoon buddies, Dan Christianson, to pick up his uniform bars and hat. While there, Dan was showing Paul his .40 caliber Ruger gun.

After checking out the gun, Paul handed it back. Dan proceeded to put the clip in the gun, aiming downward toward the floor. About 10 feet away, Brandie was lying on the couch.[TRAGEDY #2] As Dan pulled the slide back and let go, the gun jumped forward. His finger was in the trigger case and the gun went off. The bullet went through Brandie's neck, through the couch, and ricocheted around the room.

''It was so crazy,'' Brandie, 25, said. ''My body felt like, you know when your arm falls asleep. I had no idea what happened. I just saw the look on Dan's face. And then I heard Paul calling 911, saying, 'No, I can't hold, my wife's been shot in the neck.' I thought he was being awfully dramatic. I guess you can say that's when I was in shock.'' 
Four minutes later, the police and paramedics arrived. Brandie, who was partially paralyzed from the gunshot, was rushed to the hospital. The bullet had damaged her spinal cord. Eventually, Brandie, who was outfitted with a halo brace, was sent to Houston for rehabilitation. 
[TRAGEDY #3] Dan apparently couldn't cope with the result of the accident. Two days later, he committed suicide. [Bracketed headings added.]
So, maybe Paul's grandmother's death was not really a tragedy as much as a natural occurrence. But there is more aftermath to the story in the Jacksonville.com article, and you can read it if you choose. Most importantly, Paul's wife Brandie did not not die. She is, however, a paraplegic. That in itself is a tragedy, albeit better than the alternative. She and Paul are still married, at least from the most recent accounts that the Internet yields on them.

Paul Peterson's life had even more upheaval about two years ago. He was investigated by the Department of Children and Families after a parent removed her children from the private school where he taught and coached. That parent alleged that Peterson was verbally abusive and even physically rough with students at the school. He denied the charges and remained on staff that academic year.

However, in June of 2011 when the school year ended, Paul Peterson announced that he would not return to Providence School for the following year. There was mixed reaction among players, staff and students. Reportedly the decision to leave was not related to the allegation of abusive teaching methods. Peterson indicated he and his wife would be going to California where he is from to visit during the summer, and that they might end up staying there.

I do not know what has transpired in the lives of Paul and Brandie Peterson since June of 2011. I wish them well, and I hope that they have been blessed with peace with all aspects of their lives.

So why did I write this piece? There are two reasons, I guess. One of them is that all of this personal and perhaps even invasive information about Paul and Brandie Peterson is out there on the Internet. Some of it Paul Peterson must have put out there -- such as Zoom Info. Some of it is because he was a successful coach. Some was because a parent decided to make an accusation against him because she felt her child(ren) was (were) being emotionally harmed -- there was no indication anyone was physically injured by this man. So, be aware of everything that you do when it comes to social media and professional networking. Everyone can see your business, and it really never can be deleted.

The second reason is that I was relieved to read a story about a man named Peterson who was not in the news for killing his wife (and/or children). Indeed, the love that this Peterson man has for his wife is nothing short of storybook. Lovely though Brandie may be, and I mean this with no disrespect to her, but many a man has abandoned a paraplegic wife because he was not strong enough to live up to his marital vows of "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health," to be her rock and her life partner. Like Brandie, I am blessed to have such a rock and life partner in my husband.

And so, if I had a hat on, I would take it off to Paul Peterson. And if anyone who knows him and Brandie ever reads this, feel free to pass it along to them. It would be nice if they could catch us up on how things are going in their lives in 2012 ... and beyond.

Now I will put my Peterson-tragedy-fetish to rest.

For now.

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