Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Bringing healing, justice, wholeness to people and communities.
September 15, 2011

Dear Friend of LSSI:

"His success meant success to the community in which he lived. As a constructive city builder, he was surpassed by none in our beautiful city. His generosity was surpassed only by his modesty."

P.A. Peterson was founded in 1941, thanks to the generosity of Pehr August Peterson, a Swedish industrialist and philanthropist known as "Rockford's Furniture King."
That was what was said about Pehr August Peterson when he died in 1927. What a wonderful way to be eulogized! Now, decades later, his legacy lives on in Rockford at P.A. Peterson Center for Health, where we just celebrated its 70th anniversary.

Today this Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) facility offers a wide range of services to Rockford's elderly, including nursing care services, sheltered care/assisted living, short-term rehabilitation services, outpatient rehabilitation, and a memory care unit. But it was founded to be a retirement home for Swedish workers from P.A. Peterson's companies.

P.A. Peterson came to the United States from Sweden with his family in 1852 when he was six. He went to business school and by 1880 had started the Rockford Chair and Furniture Company. He became known as "Rockford's Furniture King."  

As an employer, P.A. Peterson was known to put the needs of his workers first. He worked without a receptionist so any employee could have direct access to his office. He often held meetings outside on woodpiles instead of indoors and reportedly knew all of his workers by name.

When a widower in his employ passed away, P.A. Peterson and his wife, took in his two daughters and raised them as their own. They were never formally adopted, but they were the only children P. A. and Ida had. 

When P.A. Peterson died in 1927, he left $500,000 to fund a home


Pearl Carlson, 102, P.A.'s self-proclaimed "matriarch" helped celebrate the facility's 70th anniversary on Sept. 11, along with (from left): the Rev. Chuck Olson, chaplain at P.A.; Chris Hintzsche, assistant administrator; and the Rev. Denver Bitner, D.Min., LSSI president/CEO.

for elderly Swedish workers who had worked for him in the past. It began with 12 rooms for residents and was known as "P.A. Peterson Home." By the mid-1970's the facility had become part of LSSI and its doors were open to people of all backgrounds and faiths. And careful attention to residents' needs is what sets P.A. Peterson Center for Health apart, making it a fitting tribute to the memory of its founder.

Just last Sunday, P.A. Peterson Center for Health celebrated its 70th anniversary with a special worship service, which featured vestments, liturgy and hymns from the 1940's. Pastor Chuck Olson, chaplain at P.A. Peterson, and I led the service, which was hosted by P.A.'s Barnabas Caregivers. It was so neat.

Never underestimate the good that can come from one person's life.


In faith,

Pastor Denver Bitner

OUR MISSION: Responding to the Gospel, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois brings healing, justice and wholeness to people and communities.

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