Friends gathering in memory of missing MDI man

Posted Aug. 30, 2011, at 4:51 p.m.
Pete Peterson
Photo courtesy of Mount Desert Islander
Pete Peterson

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — An event to commemorate the life of a local man who has been missing for nearly a year has been rescheduled for September, according to officials.

A potluck remembrance for Pete Peterson, who would be 62 years old, will be held Sunday, Sept. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Harbor Ridge Community Center on Freeman Ridge Road. The event had been scheduled for this past Sunday, but was postponed because of Tropical Storm Irene.

Peterson has been missing since late September 2010, when he reportedly was seen in town near Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina on Apple Lane and, alternately, near the Route 3 causeway between Trenton and Mount Desert Island. Privately, most people involved in the search effort admit that Peterson probably is deceased and his body just has not been found.

Peterson, who has developmental disabilities, was a familiar sight in Southwest Harbor and was known to hitchhike between MDI and Ellsworth and Bangor, where he liked to visit bookstores, according to people who knew him. Despite his disabilities Peterson was known to do many things on his own, including taking buses long distances. He lived on his own in Southwest Harbor and had help paying his bills and getting to medical appointments, according to residents.

Residents organized search parties for Peterson in the weeks and months after he disappeared, and have even searched for him along the side of Route 3 in Ellsworth as recently as June, according to local Police Chief David Chapais. Chapais said Tuesday that, technically, the missing status of Peterson remains an open case.

“It’s always going to be until it’s resolved,” he said.

Peterson has been described as 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 230 pounds. He is bald, has a gray beard, walks with a limp, and has a lazy eye, police have said. He was known to favor wearing bluejeans, brown shoes and a gray hooded sweatshirt.

Candy Emlen, director of the Southwest Harbor Public Library, is helping to organize the Sept. 11 event. She said the event is being held Sept. 11, rather than the anniversary of when he was last seen, so seasonal summer residents who knew Peterson can attend before they head out of town for the winter.

Emlen said Peterson was a frequent patron of the library and, until he started having some health problems, volunteered at the library by getting the library mail or helping to find misplaced books on its shelves.

“He began to do less of that as he aged, but he still spent as much time here as he could,” Emlen said Tuesday.

Emlen said people who attend the “remembrance,” as she called it, are encouraged to come with stories about Peterson and, if they have any, photographs to share. People also are encouraged to bring his favorites foods — carrot pizza and Mountain Dew soda, she said.

“He had a wicked sweet tooth,” Emlen said. “Chocolate — my word.”

Emlen said she hopes people with a variety of memories and interactions with Peterson will come to the gathering.

“We’re trying to gather as much information as we can,” she said. “I feel someday we’re going to find out what happened to him.”

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