REDDING, Calif.—The Simpson University community remembered staff member and alumnus Chris Peterson during a candlelight vigil Sept. 4 marked by tears, laughter, Scripture and prayer.
The service was held at the Veterans Memorial Garden on campus, a gift from the senior class of 2018.
Peterson, a chaplain in the Army Reserves, passed away Aug. 17. His parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece attended the 7:30 p.m. outdoor service on Simpson’s campus, as well as members of the Shasta County Veterans Services Office, American Legion veterans association and others.
Honking Canada geese flew in formation overhead as those who knew and loved Peterson shared memories and lighted candles.
“As we remember Chris’s life and mourn his death, we want to keep watch in prayer to the God of mercy and find strength in God’s presence,” said Mark Endraske, dean of students, sharing from liturgical readings. “In this time of loss, the family and our community will turn to God’s word as the source of faith and hope, as light and life in the face of darkness and death.”
Peterson graduated from Simpson in 2014 with a youth ministry degree. He earned a master of divinity degree from Fuller Seminary in 2017. He served in multiple roles at Simpson, including as a First-Year Experience leader, campus safety officer, financial aid technician, financial aid supervisor, assistant director of the Veterans Success Center, and acting director of the VSC. He also served as staff council president.
Prior to coming to Simpson University, Peterson served five years on active duty in the Navy aboard the USS Topeka, a fast-attack submarine stationed out of San Diego. He completed two Western-Pacific deployments and one Central-Command deployment. He was pending a title change to captain in the U.S. Army.
“He was an amazing man, and he has made us better people,” Simpson President Norman Hall said.
Coworkers and friends shared how Peterson was “quick to listen, slow to speak,” how he looked out for colleagues and took them under his wing. They talked about how he challenged them to think, ask questions and push forward. He was a “protector,” thoughtful and kind. He remembered names and personal details and looked beyond the surface in his interactions with others.
Family members shared that Peterson was born on Christmas Day, and that he had performed baptisms, weddings and more for relatives and friends. Even after long days on duty in the Reserves, he was “never too tired to play with his niece,” his sister shared.
Members of the Simpson community read Bible passages aloud, and José Palos, the director of spiritual formation, shared closing thoughts and prayed. Though he had not known Peterson personally, Palos said he was deeply moved by the example set by this man.
“We will carry him with us,” he said.
Top photo: Chris Peterson, in the camouflage scarf, spoke at a Carry the Load National Relay leg that started at Simpson University on April 29, 2018. // Photos of Chris Peterson courtesy of his sister, Stephanie Church. // Candlelight photo by Bev Klaiber.
Simpson University, founded in 1921, moved to Redding 30 years ago and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 25 majors in its traditional undergraduate program, the university has graduated more than 4,000 North State adults from its ASPIRE degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 8-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. Simpson University is recognized nationally by Colleges of Distinction. In 2016, it launched a Veterans Success Center on campus.
Simpson has started new athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team. The university is also working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements, and it is offering new scholarships.