Peterson joined UPI in 1973 in Omaha, Neb., and was transferred to Chicago in 1975 where he worked in the regional news operation for the next 18 years before accepting early retirement in 1993.
"Don was a devoted news guy with a great sense of humor -- especially if you appreciate puns," said former UPI General Manager Bob Kieckhefer. "He also was a wonderfully warm human being."
"He was one of a kind and will be missed by many," said Gene Hintz, a former Wisconsin state news editor who worked long-distance with Peterson for many years.
Born Dec. 15, 1932, in Manson, Iowa, Peterson was the son of Walter and Mildred Peterson and spent his early years working on the family farm. He entered the Army in January 1953, completing basic training and band training at Fort Riley. He served 18 months with the 49th Army Band in Salzburg, Austria, and received an honorable discharge in 1954.
Peterson began his broadcasting career at KDSN in Denison, Iowa, in April 1958. He also worked in the news departments of KMAQ, Maquoketa, Iowa; KOEL, Oelwein, Iowa; KWWL, Waterloo, Iowa, and WOW, Omaha, where he worked as a reporter and anchor until joining UPI.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Peterson revamped UPI's Midwest agriculture and commodities report and worked the farm desk until his retirement, training a generation of Unipressers on the fine points of agriculture reporting and farm humor along the way.
"Don knew more bad jokes than any other human being I have ever met," said UPI Midwest Correspondent Al Swanson, who worked with Peterson in Chicago. "He initiated the joke-of-the-day at the bottom of the daily farm show and came up with a new one every day for years. He was proud of himself."
After his retirement, Peterson busied himself with family and church work, volunteering with the lunch program at the Arlington Heights Senior Center and teaching and coaching computer classes for seniors.
Don is survived by his wife Rachel "Joan," whom he married July 17, 1959, in Denison. He also is survived by daughters Jody Steinbring of Manhattan, Kan.; Lori Carlson of Hudson, Ohio, and Sue Peterson of Wheeling, Ill., as well as five grandchildren and sisters Marlys Birkey of Manson, Iowa; Mary Despard of Ames, Iowa; Sandra Peterson, of Gardner, Ill.; Joyce Peterson of Crestwood, Ill., and Norma Peterson of Indianola, Iowa; and brother John Peterson of Manson.
Visitation was set for 4-8 p.m. Friday at Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral Home in Palatine, Ill., with services Saturday at 11 a.m. at All Saints Lutheran Church in Palatine. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. Monday at Augustana Lutheran Church in Manson, Iowa, with burial at Rose Hill Cemetery.