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A mission fulfilled: Jackie Peterson lived, sacrificed to provide for her son Joe

A mission fulfilled: Jackie Peterson lived, sacrificed to provide for her son Joe


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor


Up the stadium bleachers he ran.

With a football in his hand.

His cleats click-clacking on each board.

The football game was not over yet, but the game could wait.

Something far more important had hit his heart.

He had to find his mom.

Joe Peterson had just set the single-season rushing record for Field High School in 1999.

Coach Matt Furino asked for the game ball and gave it to his senior standout as a trophy for the momentous accomplishment.

For Peterson, the prize didn’t belong to him.

It belonged to one person: His mother, Jackie.

Joe Peterson (26) stands with his mother, Jackie, during a Field Youth Football game in the mid-1990’s.

The woman that routinely put him first above all else.

The record-breaking spotlight was as much hers as it was his.

A mother and son moment.

The way it always had been for the two of them.

“I truly believe that when I was born, my mom made a decision that I was going to be her focus,” said Joe Peterson, who is a teacher at Field and is also in his 13th season as the Falcons’ varsity baseball coach and won his 200th career game and league championship this year. “I was going to be her first focus of the day and her last focus of the day.

“It was just me and mom. Always.”

It was not always easy, though.

For Joe or his mom.

As a single mother, Jackie, who died on Aug. 11, 2018, quit her pursuit of a college degree in exchange for various jobs that helped her provide for the two of them.

As a child growing up without a father, Joe admits that he found himself mad at a lot of things. Things that he didn’t always understand or have the answers to.

The two found comfort in each other. Naturally, there were some times for tough love, then other times for compassion, but Jackie always knew just which of the two to choose.

“There were many times when I was a boy being a boy, and I thought that she was going to be furious with me. And, believe me, there were those times, but there were other times that I thought she would be furious, and she wasn’t. She always knew what I needed at that time. She would tell me that I was never going to mess up so bad that she wasn’t going to move me more than anything in the world.”

Their relationship, and how they chose to prioritize what was important in their lives, created the husband, father and professional that Joe is today and the life that he has with his wife Robyn and their three children: Grady, Rylan and Lyla.

The family of five live in Suffield, where Joe found roots as a young child.

After briefly living in a small house in Ravenna, Jackie and Joe moved to a duplex on Congress Lake Road in Suffield.

“Once we got there, we never moved again,” Joe said. “I was so incredibly fortunate for that. Suffield was a fantastic place to grow up. It is just an amazing community. It is the perfect, small, rural farm town to grow up in as a kid. I was lucky, and I think I even knew that back then.”

They shared the duplex with Jackie’s brother Rex, whose children Beth and Will were Joe’s cousins and “filled a lot of the brother and sister gaps that I would have had without them.”

When his cousins weren’t around, Jackie would get out in the yard and take on one of the many sports her son fell in love with.

“She would get out there to play catch or whatever it was at the time and she was always fine with it,” Joe said. “I remember one time I hit her in the knee so hard that it swelled up so big that she couldn’t even walk. It never stopped her from going out there the next time.”

Just like she always found the time to be at every game, was the team mom, was the one bringing fruit for between doubleheaders, was there to talk to “everybody and anybody,” Joe remembers.

Joe’s teammates became her second sons — part of her love to support and be there for those she filled her life with.

Joe Peterson (center) walks across midcourt, with his mother Jackie (right) on Senior Night during the 1999-2000 season.

“She was someone that put everybody first and herself last. Every time,” Joe said. “Honestly, I am not sure that she ever put herself first for anything. I can’t think of an example. She would put a stranger first if she felt like she could help them.”

Now, Joe finds himself as an educator and coach, who has the opportunity to impact kids and young adults every day.

And he doesn’t think either of those opportunities were by accident.

“I think my mom was on a mission from day one,” he said. “I think that she knew that she was not going to bring other men into my life, then she strategically put coaches in my life that had strong morals and beliefs. Men that could mentor me the way she couldn’t.”

Many of them turned out to be coaches or teachers or both. And many of them had direct positive influences on him. Keith Bowers, Matt Furino, Scott McBroom, Ray Embacher, Craig Nettleton all filled important roles, as did Joe’s uncles Rex Wright, Rocky Wright and Larry Branham.

Furino’s relationship with Peterson is now approaching 30 years and has included Peterson coaching under Furino for football and Furino coaching under Peterson for baseball.

“When I had the chance for Joe to come coach for me, it was a dream come true,” Furino said. “To have him as a player, then to watch him all the way through to become a great dad, great husband, great coach. It feels good that he says I have been a part of it, but Joe is a strong man and he has done this on his own. Joe likes to give credit to other people, because he is someone that believes in serving first, eating last, but he has done this.”

Furino’s relationship with Peterson began when Furino talked to him about returning to football after sitting out his sophomore year. A decision Peterson accepted.

Jackie Peterson with two of her grandchildren during a Field High School football game.

“He was about 150 pounds and was a defensive back for us and backup running back. He was a great athlete, you could see that, but we didn’t feel like he was big enough to run the ball consistently. We didn’t want him to get hurt because he was such a good DB, he ended up being all-league at it,” Furino said. “By the fifth or sixth game of his junior season, though, he was so good that we couldn’t not play him both ways. I will never forget at the end of that year, he walked up to me and said that he wanted to be the best running back in the league next year. I told him that he needed to get stronger, so he began working out three days a week and by the start of his senior season, he was up to 190 pounds and had an incredible season.”

Peterson ran for 1,768 yards that year.

At the time, a single-season record for the Falcons.

A record that was too special to hold onto alone.

So up the bleachers of Kenneth Lohr Stadium he ran.

With football in hand to share the moment with mom.

The person who shared everything she had with him.

1 Comment

  1. Tina Garland May 13, 2024

    Wow what a tribute to Joey and his mother Jackie she was a great woman we all loved her very much she treated everyone like family we all miss and love her very much.


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