Auld Lang Syne played as dozens of friends and loved ones of Whistler’s unofficial historian, Florence Petersen, gathered at the Whistler Conference Centre to celebrate her life on her birthday.
Over 200 people attended Petersen’s memorial, held at the great hall foyer of the centre on Oct. 31, and an honour guard of Whistler RCMP stood in full dress uniform throughout the celebration out of respect to Petersen and her husband Andy, who had done so much to make their officers welcomed in Whistler over the decades.
Petersen, a much-loved historian, founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives, marriage commissioner, mentor of a community and even a member of the first Canadian women’s field hockey team, passed away on Aug. 28, 2012 at the age of 83.
Petersen first came to Alta Lake in the 50s, one of five girls who bought a lakeside cottage for $1,500. It was called "Witsend." She married Andy in 1967.
Andy Petersen thanked those who came and spoke movingly of his wife of over 40 years as someone he liked to talk to after they met at the Rainbow Lodge in the mid-60s. Their first date was at a Chinese Restaurant in Burnaby. One day after much hinting from his future wife, he told those gathered, he went to a justice of the peace for the necessary paperwork and told Florence “you want to get married? You’d better fill out those forms.” His memory brought the house down.
A steady stream of friends paid tribute to Petersen, too.
Barb Harris met Petersen as a schoolgirl in Burnaby.
“I first met Flossie, as she was known to me, over 70 years ago when I was in grade one,” Harris said.
“A leader in the playground and in afterschool activities… Lucky for me she took me under her wing and became like an older sister to me.”
Harris recalled their times on Canada’s women’s field hockey teams, their travels in Europe and around British Columbia, and their enduring friendship after the two women married. She said her daughter’s favourite day became Oct. 31 when she could celebrate Auntie Flossie’s birthday while wearing a Halloween costume.
Sheila Walker recalled “an amazing friend and mentor.”
“Florence was someone who showed great commitment to people she cared about, her family, her school students, friends all over the world and her chosen communities,” Walker told those gathered.
“Her zest for life was truly inspirational. She touched many lives throughout her lifetime, especially women of all ages who saw her as an honorary mother or grandmother, and trusted advisor.”
First Tracks, Petersen’s history of Whistler, is published by the Whistler Museum and is now for sale. Those gathered at the memorial were encouraged to buy a copy as Petersen’s final legacy to the community.