My Northern Wisconsin

Covering Ashland, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas Counties


Photo By:  Sally Wylie

Cathy Peterson was born to Clarence and Mary (Conrad) Mess and is the oldest of her six siblings.  They all grew up on a dairy farm in southern Wisconsin.  "My favorite family memories are our Christmas celebrations which began with the Feast of St. Nicholas in December and continued until the birthdays of my Grandpa and Grandma Conrad in early January.  For me, it was the happiest time of the year," Cathy reminisced.

Cathy attended parochial school for ten years.  She graduated from Sun Prairie High School in 1959.  After attending college in Milwaukee for one year, she finished her degree and graduated from Columbia County Teachers College in May 1962.

A college diploma was not the only certificate she received that year, as one month later, she married Walter Peterson, a native of Catawba, who she met at a community dance at Angell Park in Sun Prairie when she was a senior in high school.  Since Walter was in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, the couple moved to Georgia, where Cathy started her career as a teacher.  "I loved being able to inspire students to open their minds and acquire more knowledge.  I loved to use real life stories as one way of doing that; history was probably my favorite subject to teach," Cathy said.

Two years later, the couple moved to Watertown, Wisconsin.  There, the first three of their eight children were born, plus they were foster parents for two brothers and a couple of other boys.

In 1971, Cathy and Walter moved to Catawba after purchasing a farm owned by her husband's uncle.  The transition from a larger area to a small town was initially difficult for Cathy, but she made the best of it and found plenty of things to keep her occupied.  "While raising our children and helping with farm chores, I also continued my interest in education and community service.  I was a 4-H club leader for about 25 years and taught religious education classes for a similar length of time," Cathy shared.  She taught religious studies throughout her adult life in Georgia, Sun Prairie, Watertown, and Catawba.

Along with educating youth, Cathy had another passion she turned into a career.  "I started doing some free-lance writing by authoring a variety of articles and creating greeting cards which I would send out to various publishers.  For several years, I wrote the weekly Catawba News for "The-BEE," our local weekly newspaper and some years later was hired as a community news reporter and features writer.  I especially enjoyed reporting on the involvement of area residents who worked as loggers, truck drivers, and community support workers during the time logging was taking place in the Superior National Forest."  Adding to her writing career, Cathy currently makes contributions to My Price County / My Northern Wisconsin.

Aside from her careers, family has always been important to Cathy.  She has eight children, 24 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.  Her oldest son, Joe, is a truck mechanic.  Mary, her oldest daughter, is an auditor for the State of Wisconsin.  Steve is a guidance counselor.  Her middle daughter, Karin, is a research scientist with the National Institutes of Health at the Rocky Mountain Lab in Montana.  Mike, lives in Catawba, and he is a beef farmer and truck driver.  Her youngest three children took an interest in education; Peter is a middle school principal while Johnny and Sarah are teachers.

Unfortunately, Cathy's husband passed on in 2007.  One of her sons asked her if she planned to remain in Price County or return to southern Wisconsin where most of her siblings and their families live.  Cathy shared, "It didn't take me long to reply that I would be staying here; just as growing up in Price County has given my children two very important things, roots and wings, living here has done the same for me."

Cathy continued, "As I reflect on my life, in spite of the difficulties I encountered, I feel very blessed.  I had loving parents who served as wonderful role models and had some unique experiences such as living in the South as the Civil Rights movement was just beginning.  The move to Price County was a difficult time for me, but, in retrospect, our children benefitted from growing up in the less hectic pace of life in Price County.  The slower pace of life here also gives me time to enjoy reading, my favorite hobby, and being involved in several community organizations."

Her greatest community involvement has been with five organizations.  "For at least 30 years, I was very involved in the Price County UW-Extension's 4-H program, more than half of them spent as a leader for the K-C Clovers 4-H Club; as well as the Price County Farm Bureau; and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul St. Therese of Lisieux Conference.  I am still a member of the Jump River Valley Historical Society and the Taylor-Price chapter of the Wisconsin Farmers Union."

Cathy's involvement in various organizations, along with being an educator at school and church, is reflected in her favorite quote from the Bible, "What does the Lord require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."  These words sum up the life Cathy aims to achieve, while doing so with roots and wings.

Written By:  Lynne Bohn,


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(This post was last modified: 06-29-2022, 01:07 PM by My Northern Wisconsin.)