Over the years, various members of the Rulon and Naomi Peterson family have recorded histories of themselves or other family members. Many of those histories mention Darrell and his accident. I also recently reached out to the three remaining family members and asked for some insight and memories. Below are a collection of those thoughts.
- Rulon Powell Peterson is Darrell’s father.
- Janice Peterson Child is Darrell’s oldest sister, 2nd child in the family.
- Marilyn Peterson Ellis is Darrell’s older sister, 3rd child in the family.
- Lowell Skeen Peterson is Darrell’s younger brother, 5th child in the family.
- Wayne Skeen Peterson is Darrell’s youngest brother, 6th child in the family.
From “Personal History: Rulon Powell Peterson” (pg 52-53):
“Then in 1947 tragedy came to our home and family. Darrell had been working with me as I was trying to put a hair brand on some old bulls I had just brought in from Stone, Idaho. Marilyn came running and asked him to take her to the Bamberger so she could ride to Ogden and get her music lesson. It seems the Bamberger was late so he took her to catch the street car at 35th and Washington Avenue. On his return home there was a Bamberger freight train on the track. It passed by on the west track going south just as Darrell approached the crossing. Not seeing the late Bamberger passenger train coming from the south, Darrell attempted to cross and was on the track when the train crashed into him. I have often been thankful that he didn’t suffer for I believe his death was instant. I blame the driver of the train for he said, “I could see he wasn’t going to stop,” and I asked “Why, then, didn’t you stop?” Passengers in the train said he slowed the train for an instant and then darted forward. What extreme sorrow was ours. It was the first break in our family or even my father’s family. Naomi was away at the hairdressers. I gathered my children together and we kneeled down and asked the Lord to help us as we broke the news to Naomi. Her sorrow was almost more than I could stand. Mine was intensified by seeing her great grief. I felt like I just wanted to get out from under the burden of grief.
“President Beus came and suggested the General Authorities should be notified. It was shortly after I had become President of the Stake and President Beus suggested that inasmuch as Elder Spencer W. Kimball was the visitor who had been in our Stake and set us apart that he should call him and ask him to speak. When we had assembled in the Riverdale Chapel and Elder Kimball and others were on the stand, in walked President David O. McKay. With President McKay were Sister McKay and two of his sisters, Sister Morrell and Sister Ricks. Elder Kimball, recognizing that we would want to hear from President McKay, had cut his remarks short but it still was a long service. With a chapel full and a score of Darrell’s schoolmates standing in the aisles, President McKay reminisced about his boyhood associations in my grandparents home and referred to them as Aunt Ann and Uncle Peter. His remarks, as well as those of others were very comforting. Darrell was a very good student. His school principal spoke and said, “Darrell was a straight A student except for one subject, music.” When he approached Darrell about upgrading his music he said, “Oh, I enjoy hearing the others sing.”
“The grief seemed more than we could bear. Naomi blamed herself for allowing Darrell to drive. Darrell was a very good driver. He had driven trucks around the feed yards driving for the men when they were feeding cattle. This he had done since he was nine or ten years old. In those days they were not so demanding of driver’s license for youthful drivers. Continued worry and grief were in large measure responsible for Naomi’s premature heart affliction. When Dr. Brown gave her digitalis to regulate her heart he didn’t tell her it was to be for the rest of her life. She improved and was quite good as long as her medication lasted but a while after she ceased taking it she became ill once more. This time it was much more severe and Dr. Brown warned me of her condition and said, “It may be ten days, two years, or ten years,” and ten years it was. During this time it was a constant worry and many a night when I couldn’t hear her breathing I would reach over and touch her and she would respond, “Don’t worry, I’m all right.” She had never been told what Dr. Brown had told me but I’m sure she knew and realized her condition. How choice she was and what a blessing she had been to me! When President Clark spoke at her service he said Naomi was an angel and truly she was.”
From “Naomi Skeen Peterson” by Janice Peterson Child (pg 2, last two paragraphs):
“In 1947 our brother, Darrell, was killed in a car-Bamberger train accident. It was not far from our home. She was getting her hair done at the time. Darrell had taken Marilyn to a piano lesson in Ogden. Marilyn had thought she had missed the Bamberger and so Darrell had taken her so she would not be late. He was just returning when apparently he saw a freight train go by and assumed the lights which were still on were for the freight train. The sun was shining in his eyes enough that we guessed, he did not see the train coming on the other track. He was hit by the Bamberger that Marilyn was to catch. Darrell was only 14 years old. He had a bad heart also and couldn’t do physical work. Therefore, he was taught to drive the trucks to help the ranch men. Mother blamed herself for breaking the law. She always thought it was her fault that Darrell drove that day.
“From this period of time Mother’s rheumatic heart condition started giving her problems. Dr. Brown, her physician, had told her she had a heart murmur when she was younger from rheumatic fever. That did not stop her from doing the hard work she did. The stress of Darrell’s death was too much for her heart. She had small strokes and ill health. The heart specialist told Dad with her type of heart condition she could drop over sometime and that is exactly what happened.”
Janice goes on in her account to tell the story of Naomi’s death. It’s wonderfully detailed and deserves its own post.
From “Memories of Naomi Skeen Peterson” by Marilyn Peterson Ellis (pg 3, last paragraph):
“Mother suffered terribly after Darrell was killed by a train at the age of fourteen. Those were dark days in our home. Then, I believe, as a result of the stress of Darrell’s death her heart fribulated and her health deteriorated from that time on. She died 10 years later at the age of 52. What a loss!! Our family was never quite the same again.”
From a Family History Interview of Marilyn Peterson Ellis (conducted in about 2005):
“Darrell and I chased each other some times but he had a sweet nature and used to sit and visit with me while I cleaned the kitchen floor on my hands and knees. He told me about movies he had seen. It left a terrible void in my life when he was killed. He was 14 – I was 16.”
From an email from Lowell Skeen Peterson, 22 March 2016:
Darrell was very popular in school, as he was elected student body secretary and many of the students came to the funeral. He had a bad heart so he was not able to play on the school team. He would watch practice, and as I recall, he commented that he was content to do that. He had reddish hair and freckles.
From an email from Wayne Skeen Peterson, 22 March 2016:
Here are a few insights about Darrell and the accident.
Darrell was athletically inclined though his heart condition kept him from full participation. However, he could shoot the basketball, in a shot from the corner, with great accuracy as his friends would feed him the ball.
The accident with the train happened at the crossing just below our property about two blocks from our home. Alan Zaugg, the foreman on the ranch, was the first to hear and know of the accident and immediately contacted Dad who may also have heard the crash. I was sweeping the driveway of our home when Dad pulled up in his pickup truck and told me that Darrell had been in an accident. He then proceeded in the house to tell mother. Not knowing that he had died in the accident, I went upstairs to my room and prayed that he would be alright. I now know that indeed he was alright as his spirit lived on and remained close by and was felt in our home where we had the casket for a time. I was nine years old when the accident happened but remember that day and experiences as if it was yesterday.
Darrell had a very kind, loving, and gentle disposition. He did all that he could do in the way of work on the ranch. He milked our cow slowly as he was able. I always accompanied him with that chore and carried the bucket of full milk home as we walked together.
I loved Darrell and felt closer to him in my formative years than to any of my brothers or sisters.
Thanks for remembering him.
to be continued…(one more post)