Pleasantville says goodbye to Ralph Peterson Sr.

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The municipality coined as the City on the Move came to a stop on Monday, to honor, cherish and reflect on the memory of former Mayor Ralph Peterson Sr./R.J. Liberatore Jr. The municipality coined as the City on the Move came to a stop on Monday, to honor, cherish and reflect on the memory of former Mayor Ralph Peterson Sr./R.J. Liberatore Jr.

PLEASANTVILLE – The municipality whose slogan is the City on the Move came to a stop on Monday to honor, cherish and reflect on the memory of former Mayor Ralph Peterson Sr.

Peterson died Thursday, June 12, at age 82 after touching nearly every facet of Pleasantville life and society during a civic career that spanned 63 years.

More than 240 people – family, friends, municipal officials, citizens – filled Mount Zion Baptist Church on Monday, June 23, for a four-hour, hear-felt goodbye to Peterson.

Each grieving face proved to be another marker of the number of lives that Peterson touched and the amount of sadness they shared now that he was gone.

Current Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle said when Peterson passed, Pleasantville “lost its most beloved citizen.

“The measure of a man is not what you do in life, but what you do for others,” Tweedle said. “Ralph Peterson was a gentle giant.”

Tweedle succeeded Peterson as mayor in 2009 after serving one term as a city councilman.

“We used to travel a lot and I never tired of riding in a car with him,” Tweedle said. “He had so many stories he liked to tell. He will be revered as a man, a politician and as a friend.”

Tweedle remembered sitting next to Peterson while watching a fifth-grade play at Pleasantville’s Leeds Avenue School.

“He had a tear in his eye,” Tweedle said. “He really loved children.”

Tweedle praised Peterson’s performance as a mayor, husband, father, protector, provider, and as a friend as he invited the Mount Zion congregation to stand and give Peterson “a standing ovation for a job well done.”

Faith Baptist Church Pastor Milton L. Hendricks said Peterson visited all of the churches in Pleasantville “to let us know we were important to our city. When the history of this city has been recorded… it will say Ralph Peterson did a great job and our city is still a city on the move.”

City Councilwoman Judy Ward offered remarks for the other members of City Council.

“We will miss the mayor so much,” Ward said. “There are no words.”

Ward said she remembers that Peterson was quick to let people know if they were doing something he wasn’t happy with.

“But he was even quicker to give you praise,” she said.

Ward repeated the words she heard from Councilman Lockland Scott, who said that Mayor Peterson “made the world a better place just by being in it.”

Following the service at Mount Zion, Peterson’s body was taken by horse-drawn hearse to be interred in the Atlantic City Cemetery in Pleasantville.

A repast followed at the WinSan Center at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Peterson was born Feb. 24 in Philadelphia and lived there until moving to Pleasantville in 1946.  He graduated from PleasantvilleHigh School in 1950 and enlisted in the United States Air Force.

During his military service, Peterson joined the Air Force boxing team and won several Golden Gloves championships.

He retired from boxing with a record of 86 wins, three loses and 46 knockouts.

He joined the Pleasantville Police Department in 1958. A year later, he started Pete’s Boys, a forerunner to the Police Athletic League. In 1982 he became the first African-American to be appointed Pleasantville chief of police, a position he held until he retired in for the force in 1991.

Although he retired from the police force, Peterson wasn’t ready to stop serving the citizens of Pleasantville.

He ran for mayor in 1992, successfully becoming the city’s first African-American chief executive.

He retired 16 years later, after serving four terms as Pleasantville mayor.


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