DORA SILVER PETERSON / 1907-2006
Piano teacher dedicated her life to music
During her first year at Hanahauoli School, music teacher Dora Silver Peterson asked the third-graders what they liked about school, then set their sentiments to music.
"It became our school song, and we sing it to this very day," said Patrice Ho, the school's director of development.
Peterson, 98, taught music for more than 50 years in Honolulu schools, and to hundreds of child and adult piano students who took lessons at her home.
She died Aug. 28 in Edmore, Mich., where she had lived for the past five years.
Peterson taught at the Makiki private school for 25 years. After retirement in 1971, she taught for several more years at St. Clement's Church School.
"She had a great insight on the education of children," said Pat Ekstrand, retired Hanahauoli art teacher. "We opened the doors between our classrooms to have children experience art and music at the same time."
"She had a fantastic talent and a wonderful way with kids," said Phyllis Hardy, formerly of St. Clement's School. Hardy said Peterson's talent was treasured by her friends. She would sit at the piano at parties and could play almost any classical or popular song on request and without sheet music.
"She had much more faith in me than I had in myself," said Susan Hooper, who said she took lessons as an adult after "decades away from the piano."
"Because of her, I have continued to play the piano in my own halting way ever since. When told her I thought of her every time I sat down at the piano, she said, 'I'll be right there ... looking over your shoulder.' And I truly believe that she is."
Edwin "Skip" Peterson said his mother was 5 when she began playing the pump organ at church, and as a teenager, she played the background music for silent movies. He said his parents met through her music; when she would play the piano at parties, the late Edwin "Winkie" Peterson would show up claiming her attention to help tune his guitar. They were married in 1947.
Peterson was an active member of Central Union Church, where she formerly was children's choir director and wedding director.
She was born in Belvedere, Mich. She earned a master's degree in music at New York University.
A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Monday at Central Union Church.
She is survived by son Skip; grandchildren Lono and Naheana; and nephews and nieces, including grandniece Christa Cook of Edmore, Mich., her caregiver for the past five years.