Obituary for ROD PETERSON —
Eulogy written by EARL HAMNER
I am always amazed at the way all of our lives are entwined. We're a big group drawn together through mutual friends, through the people we have worked with, and by chance, so big a group that it now includes actors, writers, directors, crew members, children and grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. But the group has never grown too large for us to stay in touch, to have a sense of family, to enjoy good times together, and to come together for comfort and consolation as we do today to remember Rod.
I was the oldest child in my family so I never knew what it was like to have an older brother until Rod came into my life. I liked him from the moment I met him. There was something outsized about him, a big man, a big Western man with roots in the frontier. I grew to love him like a brother as he filled what until then had been a vacancy in my life. I think big brother was what he was to many of us. Someone you could go to with your troubles, someone you could just talk with if you had a problem, someone who would say, "It's okay. Don't worry."
I don't think he was aware of it, but when you were with him you felt secure, protected, cared for, that every thing was going to work out for the best.
We worked together first as writers on "The Waltons". Rod was right at home on the show. He knew and understood that family and the time they had lived in. What wonderful scripts he and Claire bought to the series. Stories of substance and significance. Scripts about the difficulty of accepting ancient family rituals such as in "The Quilting". Scripts about what ignorance and hatred can do to a community as in "The Firestorm", documentation of historical events such as the burning of the Hindenburg.
Later on Rod and Claire became producers on the show. I was called the Executive Producer, but when Rod came aboard he recognized that I had no idea what a producer was supposed to do. So every morning on my desk he would leave a nicely printed out priority list. Call so and so, clear this property, attend meeting at 10:00, watch rough cut at one o'clock. I did what I was told and more than thirty years later the series is still being seen around the world — a testament in part to Rod's devotion and contribution to the series. That same partnership continued on "Falcon Crest" and that series prospered as well.
We had so many good times. We once filmed a "Walton" Special in my home town in Virginia. My home town folks were apprehensive. They weren't quite sure what would happen when Hollywood California came to the backwoods of Virginia. What came to town was Rod Peterson, who was just as down home as my people were and he put them at ease right away.
Last June we celebrated Claire's birthday in Winslow, Arizona. Rod's health was slipping. He was going down hill a little, but he was back in that wide open country he loved and it was good to share it with him.
For all of his bigness Rod had a soft heart and I will always remember how he never got over grieving for that little sheltie whose name I think was Cookie.
I remember once we happened to be in London at the same time. Jane and Claire and Rod and I were walking from one part of the city to another and suddenly we found ourselves in Berkeley Square. Rod looked at me and I looked at him and we burst into a vigorous, heartfelt version of that song about there being music abroad in the air and nightingale singing in Berkeley Square. Claire and Jane kept on walking and pretending not to know us but he knew every word of it and we sang it to the end.
I never saw Rod angry. I never heard him say a mean word about anybody. There was one network lady who used to make life miserable for us. I would rant and rave and carry on, not to her face of course, and once I said to Rod, what do you do with somebody like that? He said, "You have to feel sorry for them."
There was a game we used to play about which of our families had been the poorest, which one had it hardest during the depression.
I said that my family had been the worst off and claimed that we were so poor that we had to share a single slice of bacon for breakfast. But Rod topped me. He claimed that his family was so poor that the children had to be made in Japan.
But made in Japan or Arizona God made a fine man, a big man, a big man in size, a big man in spirit, a big man in heart, a friend the likes of which will not come this way again. I read an e-mail last night to Jane that someone had forwarded to me, and Jane said, Rod would have liked that. So, here's to our friend, our brother. Here's to Rod:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming: Wow! What a ride!"