1. Archive

Man, 81, dies trying to cross U.S. 19

Published Sep. 26, 2005

The Holiday resident was just going for his nightly walk, his wife says, but he didn't use a crosswalk.

After 60 years of waltzes, fox-trots and cha-chas, Gladys Peterson has lost her dancing partner.

"He just said, "I'm going for my walk, hon,' " Mrs. Peterson recalled. "Just like he always does."

Mrs. Peterson's husband, Leslie, died during his nightly stroll on Tuesday. The 81-year-old was killed by a car on U.S. 19.

According to his wife, he didn't use the crosswalk when he tried to walk across the busy highway at 7 p.m. just north of Moog Road.

David Wright, 42, of 4705 Beacon Hill Drive in Holiday, was driving his 1992 Dodge north on U.S. 19 when he hit Peterson, police said. No charges were filed.

Peterson has walked around the neighborhood for years, ever since his doctor said it would be good exercise for his bad knees, his 78-year-old wife said. But it wasn't like him to try to cross the highway.

The couple moved to Florida from Michigan in 1981, after he retired from his job as an electrician. Their Pinefield Avenue home is decorated with pictures of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Music fills the home _ on Wednesday, as Mrs. Peterson made funeral arrangements, she listened to the radio. Ray Conniff's Young at Heart played softly.

Leslie Peterson enjoyed traveling, and the couple had two summer trips planned: a Mississippi River cruise and an Elder Hostel event in Tennessee.

But his true love, his wife said, was dancing.

The couple went to a dance hall in Michigan on their first date in 1940.

"We danced the night away," Mrs. Peterson said, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.

They were married in 1941 and were separated by World War II. Leslie Peterson was awarded a Bronze Star while serving in the Army in the jungles of the South Pacific. When he came home, they had a son, and kept dancing.

Since they retired, the couple have been fixtures on the dance floors of the Beacon Square clubhouse, the Colonial Hills Civic Association and the Moose club.

"We did a lot of dancing," Mrs. Peterson said.