Thomas A. Peterson: Respected judge, beloved husband

Judge Thomas A. Peterson died on December 10, 2015 in his Claremont home, surrounded by family, after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 75.

He was known widely for his integrity which, when coupled with his ample wit, endeared him to all those fortunate enough to cross his path.

“He left this world just as he entered it: with an unabashed enthusiasm and a knack for captivating all around him,” family shared. “Indeed, he greeted the unknown with the same courage he brought to each day, for even in the end, unconscionable pain was met with humor, an impossible diagnosis with hope.”

Judge Peterson was born on August 19, 1940 and grew up in Los Angeles with his mother and younger brother Ross. Precocious and athletic, Tom was on the junior varsity baseball team and the varsity basketball squad at Downey High School.

Upon graduation in 1957, he entered Texas A&M University where, among other rituals, he was forced to sleep in a dresser drawer. Before long family members persuaded him to transfer to the University of Notre Dame where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1963, followed by a Juris Doctor degree in 1966.

After graduation, he spent three years in the US Army serving with the military police. He was stationed in West Germany, where he successfully shepherded Shirley Temple across the Czechoslovakian border in 1968. He was discharged as a captain and returned to California for a job as an assistant district attorney and met his wife Janis. The couple married in 1973 and had four sons.

He was named a Commissioner of the Court in 1974 and soon became a judge when Governor George Deukmejian appointed him to the Pomona Municipal Court. In 2000, he became a Superior Court Judge. He retired from the bench in 2006, but heard cases in various courthouses through 2014.

Over the course of his long legal career, Judge Peterson earned the respect of both police officers and attorneys alike on account of his legal acumen, unmatched efficiency and balanced sense of justice.

His love of well-written books and inexpensive scotch, together with his mastery of the chessboard, was only outmatched by the truly sacred: golf. Like all sports Tom attempted, he commanded the game and won several tournaments at his favorite course, Sierra La Verne. When not sinking a birdie or watching Notre Dame football, Tom enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, for whom his generosity knew no bounds.

He leaves his wife of 43 years, Janis (Byrnes); his son, Brian Post of Claremont; his son and daughter-in-law, Michael Peterson and Eliza Hommel Peterson of Washington, DC; his son and son-in-law, Brett Peterson and William Sprong of San Diego; and his brothers Ross Peterson, David Burkley and Joe Burkley. He also leaves four grandchildren, Noah, Emily, Grady and Clara. He is predeceased by his parents and his son, Patrick Post.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Sierra La Verne Country Club, 6300 Country Club Dr. in La Verne, with a reception to follow. All who knew Tom are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the American Cancer Society.


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