By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — The city of Wyandotte Sunday morning announced the death of Mayor Joseph Peterson, 66, of heart failure related to his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in the Army in Vietnam.
City Clerk Lawrence Stec said Mayor Pro Tem Robert DeSana will step up to fill the vacancy left by Peterson’s passing. He said he did not yet know when DeSana would be sworn in.
Peterson, a 36-year resident of Wyandotte, who was serving his third term as mayor, leaves behind his wife, Janice; his sons, Joseph and Matthew; and his granddaughters, Shelby and Noel.
Peterson served on the City Council from 2005 to 2009, and in 2009 was elected mayor.
Prior to entering politics, Peterson served as a Wyandotte police officer, which included assignments as a narcotics undercover officer, in the special operations division and as a detective sergeant. He served on the State Police Downriver Area Narcotics Organization unit, and from 1992 to 1996 on the Drug Enforcement Administration Federal Task Force Detroit Division.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) said Peterson was a friend who was active in his community for nearly four decades.
“He was recognized by many as a dedicated, compassionate, and effective leader who humbly strived for excellence without seeking praise or recognition for any of his significant accomplishments,” Dingell said. “Joe spent his life working for others, always caring about everyone, watching out for fellow veterans and fighting for his beloved Wyandotte.
“He just was there, a warrior who lived and cared. And the world has lost another good man who made it a better place because he was here.”
Peterson was a member of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Usher’s Club and Holy Name Society. He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1136, a member of American Legion Post 217, as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled Veterans of America, and a Polish Legion of American Veterans Post 74 life member.
Peterson was also a life member of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge III, a past president of the Wyandotte Rotary Club, a trustee of the Wyandotte Roosevelt High School Scholarship Board and a member of the Polish Roman Catholic Union Society 162.
Peterson also served on the boards of the Wyandotte Salvation Army, the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, the Downriver Community Conference and the Wayne County Transit Authority.