On the evening of October 13, 2023, Donald “Toby” Peterson, 89, left this world better than he found it, peacefully from the comfort of his home and surrounded by his loving family. A lifelong resident of Oconto Falls, Donald was born November 16, 1933 to Alfred and Esther (Coisman) Peterson, and spent much of his childhood years growing up in a rural area of Oconto Falls known as “Swedetown.” During that time, he would be given the name of “Toby,” a name that so many have come to know him by. Toby attended Oconto Falls High School as a member of the class of 1952. While attending OFHS, he would meet the girl of his dreams, Shirley Jean Elbe. They would marry on February 11, 1956 and, together, they would have six beautiful children and build a life filled with love, faith and laughter.
Always an early riser with a strong work ethic, he and his father would take ownership of two gas stations in Oconto Falls, where he would service cars and trucks, and later started selling used vehicles. In the fall of 1973, he and Shirley purchased the local Ford dealership from the Jacobson family and, as they say, the rest is history. In 1976, Toby’s son, Mike, joined the family business before becoming a partner at Peterson Ford in 1994. In 48 years under Toby’s leadership, Peterson Ford would become an Oconto Falls institution. The dealership would truly become a place that would embody the tagline “Family Owned. Customer Built,” with its many dedicated family members and employees providing service and selling vehicles to people from all over Northeastern Wisconsin. His commitment to putting the customers first would be recognized on a national level when Peterson Ford was awarded as one of Ford’s original recipients of the “President’s Award” for distinguished customer service and satisfaction. As a 22-time recipient of the award, Toby would always give credit to his employees, all of whom he considered an extension of his family. Simply put, Toby loved his customers. He was an expert at diagnosing car problems by just driving it, and quickly knowing how best to fix the problem. In November of 2021, at the age of 87 years old, Toby decided it was time to retire, ultimately selling the dealership to Kayser Auto Group-S & L Ford.
Toby truly loved the community he called home and was humbly devoted to investing his time and charity to his hometown. He was a strong supporter and member of River Island Golf Course in Oconto Falls, where he enjoyed hitting the links with family and friends. Toby proudly served on the Oconto Falls Fire Department and on the Community Bank Board. He was an avid outdoorsman, taking many hunting trips out west and hosting many at the family cabin during deer hunting season. He also enjoyed taking trips to the casino with his siblings and close friends, rarely leaving without making a new memory or having a new story to tell.
In his 89 years on earth, it’s been said that there’s probably no one who has watched Oconto Falls wake up more than Toby Peterson. His charisma was infectious, and he had a way of making you feel like you had known him for years, even if you had just met. And, once you met him, you had a friend for life. As a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, friend, and businessman, he truly was beloved. Toby’s legacy of integrity and generosity lives on in the community he loved so much.
Survivors are his loving and dedicated wife of 68 years, “His Lovely Lady” Shirley Peterson; their six children, Lynette (Kent) Reidinger, Mike (Koreen) Peterson, Kathryn (Lou) Hobyan, Mari Jo (Terry) Gorman, Jan (John) Hilbert and Beth (Jim) Ribar; 16 grandchildren; David Reidinger, Andrew (Lauren) Reidinger, Matthew (Katrina) Reidinger, Bethany (friend Melissa) Reidinger, Lindsey (Matt) Hartin, Jared Peterson, Trina (Jim) Lynett, Douglas (Alandriss) Hobyan, Grant (Kayla) Gorman, Ann (Tony) Kujava, Hannah (James) Puissant, Molly (Cole) Van Enkenvort, Emme (Colin) Toneys, Josie Hilbert, Aaron and Jay Ribar; 26 great grandchildren; one brother, Vic (Bonnie) Peterson; two sisters-in-law, Joan Peterson and Joanne Elbe, one brother-in-law, John Wusterbarth; many nieces, nephews and very good friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his two siblings who he cared dearly for, Ronald “Swede” Peterson and Jeanette Wusterbarth, infant brother Ovie Gene Peterson, his in-laws, Gust and Margaret Elbe and brother-in-law, Ronald Elbe.
Visitation will be held from 2:00-8:00 PM Sunday, October 22, 2023 at Jones Funeral Service in Oconto Falls. Visitation will continue after 10:00 AM Monday, October 23, 2023 at Peace Lutheran Church, 1954 County Road U, Green Bay until the time of service. Funeral services will be held at 1:00 PM Monday at the church with Pastor Stuart Dornfeld officiating. Burial will take place in Woodlawn Cemetery, Oconto Falls.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, a memorial fund will be established.
The Peterson family would like to thank Bellin Health, Aurora BayCare, St. Clare Hospital, and the love & special care given by Moments Hospice Team. As our dad would always say “Thank you very kindly”.