COUNCIL BLUFFS — Because of his willingness to volunteer, Ken Petersen of Council Bluffs will be recognized as an Iowan of the Day next week at the Iowa State Fair.
His day of recognition will be Aug. 16. The award comes from the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation and Cookies Food Products.
“Ken Petersen has brightened the lives of those around him by being active in more than 29 state and local organizations and nonprofits in Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa,” said Jake Powers, Jennie Edmundson Hospital’s volunteer coordinator, who nominated Petersen.
Petersen, 88, has found volunteer work very rewarding.
“I’ve been retired 28 years,” he said. “My wife’s been dead 22 years, and this gave me a life after. It kind of enriches your life. You learn things, also. You meet a lot of special people.”
His service has included serving on boards for school organizations, facilitating a Youth Leadership Academy for seventh- and eighth-graders, being involved with the American Cancer Society and the Wings of Hope cancer support center, volunteering for Jennie Edmundson Hospital and the Iowa Hospital Association.
He also has volunteered for the American Red Cross, Pottawattamie County Tobacco Coalition, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, Chanticleer Community Theater, Bluffs Arts Council, Kiwanis, Rotary Club and his church.
Of his volunteering, he says: “We’re all going to need help at one time or another — and, if we don’t help each other, who will?”
Petersen was born and raised in Council Bluffs and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in general engineering at the University of Omaha (now the University of Nebraska at Omaha). He served as a radio operator in the Air Force from 1942 to 1945.
He held positions with the Iowa Department of Transportation, Pottawattamie County and U.S. Geological Survey before beginning a long career with Northern Natural Gas. He retired from Northern Engineering International, an Enron subsidiary.
Petersen has slowed down. But he is still a commissioner for the Iowa Department of Aging.
“A year ago June, they gave me a month to live — and you never tell an old Dane that,” he said. “I jokingly say that I am suffering from an extreme case of old age. But I am still going, haven’t given up.”
Petersen has three daughters, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.