COOPERSTOWN – Theodore Peters Jr., Ph.D., 97, a World War II veteran and nationally known Bassett Hospital researcher, passed away peacefully in his sleep at Cooperstown Center on Thursday, March 19, 2020.
He had previously stayed at the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home, after principally living with his family in the “haunted house” on River Street and later at 85 Lake St., both in Cooperstown.
Dr. Peters was well-known in the village, having served for decades as member and chair of the water and sewer board, which recently dedicated the new facility in his honor.
Moreover, on his own initiative, he was also active in protecting Lake Otsego, having started monitoring and analyzing the lake water in the early 1960s.
Dr. Peters was an accomplished musician, playing (trumpet) with the Rhythm Kids, a swing band, in high school and playing both the trumpet and the drums for sixty years with the Cooperstown Community Band. He loved playing tennis and squash, and he was an avid jogger (before it was cool), fly fisherman and outdoorsman who loved hiking and camping in the Adirondacks and across our nation.
Dr. Peters was born into a medical family in Chambersburg, Pa., on May 12, 1922.
His father was a country doctor, his mother ran the office and his sister, Elizabeth (Bebe) became a nurse.
After high school, he went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, having majored in chemical engineering. He graduated summa cum laude in two and a half years due to World War II.
While at Lehigh, he met (1941) and then married Maggie (June, 1945), his wife of over 67 years.
While in graduate school at MIT, he was he was commissioned into the Navy, sent to radar school and then to submarine school, where he again graduated at the top of his class. He then reported aboard the submarine Cabezon, based in San Diego. He was especially proud of his country and his service during World War II and the Korean War, culminating in 26 years in the Navy. He retired as a commander in the mid-1970s.
In between his World War II and Korean War service, he completed his Ph.D. in medical biochemistry at Harvard University in 1950, working with his advisor, Dr. Christian Anfinsen. Dr. Anfinsen later won the Nobel Prize for Medicine as he was nominated by Dr. Peters for his work in synthesizing insulin.
Completing his doctorate in three years, Dr. Peters taught at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, which was his father’s alma mater.
In 1951, Dr. Peters was recalled into the Navy and served as flag communications officer to the Commander, Submarines Atlantic, a two-star admiral, in Groton, Connecticut.
Upon returning to civilian life, he taught at Harvard Medical School before being recruited to the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in 1955.
At Bassett, he conducted basic research. Dr. Peters specialized in the study of the structure and actions of serum albumin, a blood protein.
He retired in 1988, after several years as head of research. During these years, Dr. Peters presented at dozens of conferences, published over 100 journal articles and upon retiring as an Emeritus Scientist at Bassett, wrote his signature work, “All About Albumin.” This book has subsequently been adopted by medical school libraries throughout the world.
Dr. Peters maintained his intellectual curiosity throughout his life, travelling extensively during and after his research career. He visited six continents, missing only Antarctica. He visited nearly 20 countries and all 50 states. His wife, who predeceased him in March, 2013, was his planner, navigator and companion on so many of his travels, and all his post-career trips. As her health declined, the travelling stopped and Dr. Peters was her devoted caregiver for the remainder of her life.
Dr. Peters is survived by his four children, Theodore (Patrice), James (Robin), Melissa Barry (Thomas) and William (Trina). In addition, he had seven grandchildren, Laura and Julie Peters, Carolyn Peters Kinzel (Emmett), Timothy Barry (Whitney), Heather Margaret Barry Paterson (Samuel), Brenda Barry Peper (Nicholas) and Michael Peters; as well as four great-grandchildren, Chloe and James Kinzel and Jameson and Chase Peper. He was also a loving uncle to his nieces and nephews, Rebecca Bockman (John), Ellen Boykin, Elizabeth Boykin Zellers (Steve), Theodore Boykin (Louise) and Havard Scott (Sergio); as well as Philip Boykin and Miriam Boykin Kliment, who predeceased him.
A memorial service is being planned for the summer.
Memorial donations in Dr. Peters’ name may be made to Otsego Lake Commission or Friends of Bassett.
Arrangements are entrusted to the Tillapaugh Funeral Service.