A Tribute to Rick Peterson
Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications
Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.
Post 26 of 40 - 22 August - A Tribute to Rick Peterson
“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.
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Rick Peterson Open-Water Swimming, 2022
During the course of producing this series, the FGG was saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Rick Peterson. Rick was a driving force behind the creation of Team Seattle for Gay Games II, the Seattle Orcas swim and water polo teams, and served as the first Male Co-President of the FGG.
Fortunately, Rick provided content for this series prior to his passing. His essay can be located HERE
Following are memories from those who knew and worked with Rick during the formative years of the FGG.
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Rick Peterson making his Branding presentation at 2019 Annual Meeting in Guadalajara
SEAN FITZGERALD: Rick Peterson was the first Federation of Gay Games Male Co-President, the position I hold today. I had the honor to introduce Rick to the Gay Games membership at the 2019 Annual General Assembly in Guadalajara. He made a presentation on how the Gay Games can increase their Brand visibility. Rick remained active in the FGG after serving as Co-President. He recently participated in our "Passing the Torch" series to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games. Read Rick's words HERE
Unfortunately Rick passed away while swimming in Lake Washington early this week. The news has shocked and saddened the entire Gay Games family. His commitment and leadership will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
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Rick Peterson (far right) with Susan Kennedy (to his right) at Gay Games IV NYC 1994
SUSAN KENNEDY: When I think of Rick Peterson, many adjectives come to mind. He was bright, talented, endlessly optimistic and above all, kind. Rick served as the first male Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games and I had the privilege to serve with him from 1991 through 1994.
In the early days of the Federation, there was much work to be done simply putting the building blocks of the organization in place. Committees, committee chairs, fundraising, raising the profile of the Federation, dealing with trademark issues and looking ahead long-term at the health and well-being of the organization and the event itself.
Rick was always in the middle of these discussions, his creative mind seeing things the others may have missed and taking the time and making the effort to systematically and patiently make his case. For example, Rick was the driving force behind the creation of The Federation Endowment Fund. He was also a lead player in the creating the Business Plan Development Committee so the Federation could begin discussions on creating a business plan.
In early 1993, the Executive Committee traveled to Colorado Springs to meet with representatives of the USOC to discuss trademarking issues, but also to discuss ways that our organizations could work together. During our visit, Rick’s “ad man” side was in heaven since one portion of our visit involved discussions about sponsorships and merchandise.
Rick and I also worked together on obtaining the 10-day blanket waiver for Gay Games IV. This waiver, allowed athletes who were HIV positive to enter the country without declaring their HIV status. Together we worked with staff in the State Department, Health and Human Services and Immigration and Naturalization Services. Phone calls, faxes and face to face meetings in the fall of 1993 ultimately proved to be successful and in March of 1994, then Attorney General Janet Reno granted the waiver.
I will always remember standing with him on stage in New York at Wein Stadium during Opening Ceremonies and again at Yankee Stadium for Closing Ceremonies when we announced that the Gay Games would be going off the North American continent for the first time and would be in Amsterdam in 1998.
Rick and I shared many, special Gay Games moments together beyond the ones mentioned here. During our time serving together, we experienced great joy and great sadness. I always knew as did he, that if one of us needed to talk, we were there for each other. We trusted each other implicitly and while we didn’t always see eye to eye, we both loved the Federation and the Games. Whether you knew Rick or knew of him, rest assured that this organization and this event are better for him being involved and if you want to honor him, the next time you find yourself in a heated passionate discussion, stop and remember that if Rick was standing there, he would be kind.
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Rick Peterson, varsity swimmer at Washington State University, 1971. Rick swimming at Gay Games II, 1986
KATHLEEN WEBSTER: When I think of Rick, I think of his eyes, his warm smile and his genuine presence. Most times, Rick had a sense of calm about him. He often was able to bring together disparate people with conflicting agendas and find a middle ground. Rick had his own strong opinions but he was open to change – and he succeeded in bringing others together because he listened with respect and attention.
We first met when I became involved as a FGG volunteer in 1994. Rick was co-president at that time, serving with Susan Kennedy and I watched and learned as they partnered to lead the FGG forward through the rapid growth and changes of those times. Even when Rick stepped down as co-president, he continued his commitment to the FGG and Gay Games and supported and mentored those of us new to the organization. Rick and I worked together on a few projects over our respective tenures on the FGG board of directors. I remember once he took me aside to discuss language in a license agreement the FGG legal team was drafting with the current host organization. Rick felt that some of the language was too strong and asked if we could reword it to sound “nicer.” The lawyer in me tried to explain that the language was “boiler plate” legalese, included in all similar contracts and to rewrite it could open the door to all sorts of unforeseen problems of interpretation. But the friend in me just had to smile because this was so Rick – he was professional, dedicated and he still wanted everyone to feel good.
In 2016, I was asked to serve as a consultant to the FGG Working Group as the FGG board of directors was preparing to end further negotiations with the organization responsible for the OutGames. I had been happily retired from the FGG since 2007 and my first response was a decisive, or so I thought, no. But then I talked to Charlie Carson who told me that Rick also had been asked to serve. So I reached out to Rick and we talked. I knew from all our years of service together that I not only could work with Rick, I could trust him – his honesty and integrity. As we say in the martial arts, I knew that Rick would have my back and I would have his. I am grateful I had that last opportunity to work with him for a cause near and dear to us both.
Rick was a strong and tireless advocate for swimming, for the Gay Games. He also freely volunteered his advertising and promotional expertise to further those missions. And Rick was a genuine friend. I will miss those eyes and his smile, but he will live on long in the memories of the many lives he touched.
Rick Peterson with Life Partner Thomas DeVera, at Gay Games X Paris 2018
To Thomas, Rick’s life partner of so many years – we send you our love and our prayers. Rick’s Gay Games friends are always here for you.
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Rick Peterson at Gay Games II Closing Ceremony, 1986
GENE DERMODY: I had heard of Rick for years while working closely with Susan Kennedy on newly created Team San Francisco (1987) as a response to the upcoming Gay Games III: Vancouver 1990.
The proximity of Seattle to Vancouver and San Francisco with the very powerful Team Seattle & IGLA, both Rick’s forté, made them a natural alliance before they were even made an FGG team because Vancouver’s inner sports structure was so weak.
Susan was top notch Basketball, Rick a top notch Swimmer, and I was just a Wrestling volunteer holding Team San Francisco together. Susan was obsessed with the USOC negotiations because we all needed peaceful, constructive closure prior to Vancouver in order to solicit sponsors.
Susan was very professional, very practical, and open to some discussion. Rick’s professional corporate expertise was a godsend for Susan. In many ways, he was probably the silent power-partner, packaging the language and strategy, but Susan was the Boss.
San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the original 501c3 (non-profit) organization that put on Gay Games I and II, transformed itself in th Federation of Gay Games. That FGG selected Peg Grey of Chicago, and Rick Peterson of Seattle as their first Co-Presidents.
I knew Rick was closely associated with IGLA, the premier LGBTIQ+ Aquatics governing body, and was eager to see their 501c3 incorporation documents (as well as Team SF’s, Team Seattle’s, the FGG’s, and Beat The Street’s) as I prepared to take Wrestling down the same path toward legitimacy in joining the FGG family. Rick helped me get draft docs to get me started.
The Team Seattle & IGLA language and design were more of an education than anything else. I attended the FGG’s Annual Meeting in New York City, and then again in San Francisco the following year. I was told that until Wresting could show a 501c3 document (like an IGLA), the FGG was uninterested.
At the Vancouver Gay Games in 1990, my connections with NY’s Tom Cracovia began our quest to get Red Books in to the Host Contracts, as we observed the operational sports problems of Vancouver.
Rick Peterson as FGG Male Co-President
I also finally met Rick Peterson while running my wrestlers through the big Vancouver park. We hit it off, and laughed at my ‘Village Voice’ critique that forced Vancouver to pay better attention to the sports, once FGG’s Sean Kelley was sent up there to oversee things.
Rick understood the hurdles smaller new sports would face joining the FGG: having a very unfriendly FGG membership policy locked into 501c3 documents was too great an obstacle!
He impressed me with his very laid back professional style, and he promised to help me at the next FGG Annual Meeting to get my agenda items started.
I knew I did not have the time before the meeting to create the international 501c3 organization the FGG wanted (this organization would eventually become Wrestlers WithOut Borders/WWB), but I did already have the local Golden Gate Wrestling Club (GGWC) 501c3 docs in effect as of 1987 in order to obtain SF City Rec Center rates favor.
I had already gotten the signatures of sign off from the 14 other wrestling clubs (AU, EU, US) while in Vancouver at a meeting we held at a big party, but we needed to formalize it.
Rick advised me to apply to the FGG as temporary Wrestling Rep, using GGWC as a stand in until WWB was up to legal snuff.
At the FGG Annual Meeting, the resistance to Wrestling, me, and GGWC was surprising & illogical to me. I can only think that the new FGG wanted to show legitimacy, by being as restrictive and controlling as the old IOC!
When it came to vote on the GGWC offer, Tom Cracovia passionately spoke up for me, highlighting the much needed Red Book work we had already started.
Rick did not publicly speak up for me, but offered much private verbal encouragement, and made a point of often being seen with me conversing… a political coup.
It was Rick’s idea to respect & use the FGG rules, be a Sport Rep (not an Individual Rep), stress past proven service, stress the already started wrestling organizational sign-offs, and not give up should it fail.
Rick and Susan Kennedy were concerned that another San Franciscan on the new FGG Board was not a good political idea, but they couched their neutrality statements with praise for GGWC’s accomplishments for Gay Games I and II. GGWC was accepted by 2 votes, even while Rick & Susan abstained.
In the subsequent years, I became a fan of Rick’s quiet unobtrusive style, he knew when and how to quiet me down. I specifically remember an AGA where Rick’s partner at the time, Mitch, and I got into a big debate about the need for ‘Sensitivity Training’ for the FGG reps.
Mitch and I were both very combative, and we need to go to our corners. Someone actually brought out boxing gloves! Rick was especially effective at understanding and addressing the real differences in our different perceptions of ‘Sensitivity Training’, and it was quietly resolved because of the respect we all had for Rick as a leader.
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Kimberly Hadley (left), Linda Wedewer, Rick Peterson
KIMBERLY HADLEY: I didn't have the opportunity to "work" directly with Rick but Linda Wedewer and I spent an absolutely wonderful day with Rick when we were visiting Seattle a couple of years back. Rick spoke so fondly about his swimming, especially in Lake Washington near the Montlake Cut where the historic ASUW Shell House was located. This is where the infamous team of 9 young University of Washington rowers known as the "Boys in the Boat", representing the US Olympic Rowing Team, trained for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and who took the Gold Medal in front of Adolf Hitler's eyes. He just gleamed at this story, one neither of us had ever heard of before. "Marsh Island" was also nearby and we had a wonderful stroll along the Arboretum Trail there.
When I think about Rick, he will always have that same smile on his face and have a kind word to be said. Rick’s heart exuded love for those who came from all walks of life and especially for those who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. His longtime passion for the Gay Games (for whom he was the Federation’s first Male Co-President) continued long after he left the board and went on to become an Honorary Life Member.
More recently, he returned to help lead the Federation with its rebranding efforts, working tirelessly with the Federation's Development Committee & GGHK2023 (the Hong Kong Host) with its sponsorship opportunities. Rest in peace, my friend. You will be greatly missed by so many of us and your longtime contributions will never be forgotten.
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EDITOR'S NOTE: To read an excellent 29 August tribute article about Rick Peterson in the Bay Area Reporter newspaper (San Francisco), authored by News Editor Cynthia Laird), please click HERE.
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Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.