Elayne J. Peterson, 96, Altoona, WI, passed away peacefully in her home on May 4, 2021, surrounded by family.
Elayne was born on March 17, 1925, at Hillside View, the family farm in the Town of Peru, Dunn County, Wisconsin, to Ole and Regina (Brack) Aanstad. She was the eighth of eleven siblings—seven girls and four boys. Later in life, Elayne would reflect fondly on a childhood spent reading, visiting, playing cards and games with her siblings, and making music.
From first to eighth grade, Elayne attended the Lock School, a one-room schoolhouse near her home. She loved learning and graduated with honors at age 13 after which she attended Eau Claire Senior High School until her graduation in 1942 at age 17. Following graduation, Elayne worked first at the creamery in Rock Falls and then for the Long family at Zenith Sales Company, a local appliance store, and Long’s Sporting Goods store.
Elayne met the love of her life, Gordon P. “Gordy” Peterson, when the two were teenagers. They never attended school together but saw each other every Sunday at Rock Creek Lutheran Church. After Gordy was discharged from service at the end of WWII, the two married at First Lutheran Church in Eau Claire on September 20, 1947. It was the start of a wonderful 49-year marriage; a true partnership filled with family, friends, faith, hard work, travel, and adventures that lasted until Gordy’s unexpected passing in 1996.
Early in their married life, Gordy and Elayne worked together and with others to establish two of the cornerstones of their lives—their church community and family business. In 1954 they were invited to join with several others to become charter members in the founding of Trinity Lutheran Church, an experience Elayne described as the most wonderful thing in their lives. And, in 1960, Gordy and colleague, Erv Smith, formed G. & E. Sales Inc., an appliance, heating, and air conditioning store in Eau Claire. A few years later, Gordy and Erv decided to split the company into separate businesses, with Erv taking the heating and air conditioning and Gordy continuing with the appliances, televisions, and stereos. From then on Gordy and Elayne managed the company together—Gordy handling sales and Elayne running the books.
Elayne and Gordy loved to travel. In the earliest years of G & E Sales, Gordy and Elayne worked long hours and rarely took time off. Later, however, their work in appliance sales afforded them opportunities for many trips overseas. They traveled throughout Europe (including trips to Norway to visit the places their grandparents had lived), Australia, New Zealand, Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. They also enjoyed camping weekends and longer tours around the U.S. and Canada—first with their four kids in successively larger campers (pop-ups to hard-tops) and then on their own, graduating to an Airstream in 1975 and a motorhome after that.
An archivist at heart, Elayne spent countless hours documenting the history of her family and her church. At the end of her life, dementia took many of those memories, but not before she gave them to all of us—a legacy of letters, stories, and genealogies. She was passionate about her work on Trinity’s Archives Committee and thoroughly enjoyed riding through the countryside around Rock Falls with family and sharing stories from her childhood.
A strong faith and involvement in many aspects of Trinity’s work sustained Elayne throughout her life. She sang in the church choir, was a member of a couple’s bible study, served meals at the Community Table, enjoyed church weekend campouts, participated in the Prayer Chain and the Miriam Women’s Circle, and chaired the Archives Committee. She also supported and participated in Trinity’s mission trips—traveling to Kingston, Jamaica, eight times between 1998 and 2009.
Family was so important to Elayne. She cherished a close bond with her six sisters—their ‘gab-fests’ were legendary and together they ran an impressive, decades-long succession of family reunions. She also loved time with her immediate family, treasuring family dinners followed by rounds of cards. In her last years, she gained immeasurable joy from time spent with her great-grandchildren.
Elayne is survived by her son, Randy (Gina) Peterson of Brentwood, TN; daughters: Lynn (Jim) Gullicksrud of Eau Claire, WI, Kris Peterson of Aloha, OR, and Jan Gumz of Altoona, WI; adopted family: Man (Hien) Le of Madison, WI, and Huong (Ray) Coleman of Madison, WI; grandchildren: Jason (Sabina Cullura) Peterson of Stockholm, Sweden, Jennifer (Geoff) Ferris of Brentwood, TN, Regina (Nickolas) Butler of Fall Creek, WI, Reidar (Kaitlen) Gullicksrud of Eau Claire, WI, Carl (Meagen) Gumz, Jr., of Minneapolis, MN, Peter (Kelly Holden) Gumz of Eau Claire, WI, Bradley (Alli) Gumz of Eau Claire, WI, and Phong Le of Los Angeles, CA; great-grandchildren: Maria, Geoffrey, Lennon, Zara, Azzura, Henry, Nora, Olaf, Bjorn, Gordon, Gabrielle, Cael, Sage, Freya, Hudson, Simon, and Vada; sister, Clarice (Gerry) Anderson of Medford, OR, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Elayne was preceded in death by her parents; beloved husband, Gordy; infant grandsons: Michael and Kyle Gullicksrud; grandson, Alex Le; infant great-grandson, Evan Gumz; four brothers: Palmer, Robert (Shirley), Richard, and Theodore; five sisters: Russellyn (Dale) Lunke, Mildred (Stuart) Brumberg, Ione (Donald) Milton, Peg (Juel) Market, and Ann (Redd) Ayres; Gordy’s two brothers: Leonard (Helen) and Raymond (Jannette) and his three sisters: Alvina (Art) Phephles, Evelyn (Gene) Kaiser, and Theresa (Paul) Mitchell along with numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Our sincere gratitude to Dr. Kristin Wogahn; Elayne’s angels: Amy, Jeff, Cheryl, Sue and Kelly; and her healthcare team: Bridget, Brooke, John, Emily, and Emily.
She was our matriarch and the heart of our family, a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She taught us about where we came from and the importance of hard work, generosity, and taking time with one another. We are so grateful for the time we had with her.
Memorial Service will take place at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 27, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1314 E. Lexington Blvd, Eau Claire, WI 54701. Pastor Patrick Patterson will officiate. The service will be available to live stream by visiting the church website at: http://www.trinity-ec.org/. Visitation will take place from 9 a.m. until time of service. Committal service will immediately follow the Memorial Service at Forest Hill Cemetery in Eau Claire.
Masks are required and social distancing will be observed.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to Trinity Lutheran Church.
Friends and family may offer condolences online at www.hulkefamilyfh.com.
Hulke Family Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 3209 Rudolph Road, Eau Claire, WI 54701, is assisting the family with arrangements.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Elayne J Peterson, please visit our floral store.