As his voluminous career resume attests, E.B. "Pete" Petersen did just about everything in life.
When General Electric opened a plant in Salem in 1955, Petersen was the man who hired the company's workforce. As president of the Salem-Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce, he was a driving force behind the plans and formation of Salem's Lewis-Gale Hospital in 1972.
While those two major undertakings topped his mile-long list of community deeds, Petersen's most-treasured passion was his role as the area's sports voice for almost a half-century.
You name the sport, from high school to the professional ranks, Petersen was the public address guy. The list includes the Salem Pirates minor-league baseball team, the American Basketball Association's Virginia Squires, the Roanoke Buckskins minor-league football team, Virginia Tech basketball and football, and Roanoke College basketball.
"Pete had one of the best voices that I've ever heard as a sports announcer," longtime Salem Civic Center director Carey Harveycutter said. "I've heard people at facilities large and small, and his voice was as good or better than 95 percent of the people in the country."
The voice died Wednesday at age 88.
Petersen, whose health had been waning the past half-dozen or so years, called the names of thousands of athletes at all levels through his decades at the microphone. Those who knew the Schenectady, N.Y., native well say he touched the lives of thousands of others through his vast community service work with the Boy Scouts of America, the Lions, Masons and Kazim Temple Shriners.
"Pete affected so many people's lives ... a lot of people's lives that he didn't know he touched," Harveycutter said.
Petersen called his first game at Salem's Municipal Field in 1956. The late Salem councilman and later to be civic center manager, Jack Dame, needed a replacement PA announcer at an Andrew Lewis High School football game. Petersen, who had been one of Dame's spotters, was asked to do it.
"I don't know if I was good, or terrible," Petersen told The Roanoke Times in 1997. "Nobody said. Nobody ever does. I just keep on doing it, and I'd like to keep doing it. I watch myself more closely now. I'm up at an age now where things will deteriorate."
Petersen, who called Roanoke College basketball for 30 years, served as the PA man for Tech basketball and football for 20 years before his retirement in 1999. Charlie Moir, the former Roanoke College coach, helped Petersen get the announcing job at Tech when Moir became the Hokies' basketball coach.
"It was just for basketball initially," Moir recalled. "They really like him so he started doing football as well. He did a super job for a long, long time."
Salem's Danny Gee, a frequent golfing partner with Petersen at Salem's Hidden Valley Country Club, said Petersen was the best friend a person could have.
"If you were his friend, Pete was very dedicated to you," Gee said. "Pete would do anything for anybody. He would do things that people didn't know about.
"In 1985, I had to go to Houston to get my whole aorta replaced. And [Pete and his wife Ellen] called the hospital to find out how I was doing every day."
While he adored golf, Petersen's favorite thing about sports was calling a game with microphone in hand.
"In football, you always listened for 'a slashing tackle,'" Harveycutter said.
Then there was his trademark phrase - "That's a walk" - when an official called traveling on a visiting player.
Now, Harveycutter says he can imagine Pete the PA man taking a walk in heaven.
"There's no question in my mind that there was a place reserved for him," Harveycutter said. "Very honestly, I think he could be the one announcing the people to Saint Peter ... like now arriving .... whomever."
Petersen is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ellen Petersen, and children David, Roger and Ann, plus seven grandchildren and one great grandson. The family will receive friends at Lotz Funeral Home in Salem tonight from 6 to 9. The funeral service will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist Church in Salem. Interment will be held in Sherwood Memorial Park.