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 Roger Peterson

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Roger Peterson

Pilot of the plane that crashed killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, in an event that has been subsequently called "the day the music died." Born and raised in Alta, Iowa, the oldest son of four children to Arthur and Pearl Peter, he had earned his private pilot's license in October 1955 following his graduation from the local high school. Three years later, he earned his commercial pilot's license, and was hired for Dwyer Flying Service in nearby Mason City, Iowa. On September 14, 1958, Peterson married his high school sweetheart, Deanne Lenz, and they set up residence in Clear Lake, Iowa, a short drive to Mason City, where both worked. In January 1959, Peterson received his certification as a limited Flight Instructor, although he was still working on his Instrument Flight Rating, and was not certified for nighttime flying. On the evening of February 2, 1959, Peterson was contacted by the manager of the Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake, to charter a flight from Mason City to Fargo, North Dakota. A tour group was doing a Winter Dance Party in several cities, and one of the performers, Buddy Holly, wanted to fly ahead of the group that was traveling by bus. When the performers arrived at the airport, Peterson learned that in addition to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson had also joined the group. They took off in a light snow storm about 1:00 am, the morning of February 3, in a 1947 Beechcraft Bonanza, a four-seat aircraft, and several minutes later, crashed into a corn field about eight miles northwest of the airport. All four men aboard were killed instantly. The Civil Aeronautics Board investigation concluded that the most likely cause of the crash was pilot error, as Peterson was flying on instruments and was not certified in their use, nor was he familiar with or rated for night flying. Poor weather conditions were cited as a secondary cause of the crash. Peterson was buried on February 6, in the Buena Vista Memorial Cemetery, and his widow, Deanne, remarried about ten years later. They had no children. In June 1988, a granite memorial to the four men was dedicated outside the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, honoring their memory.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 10 Jun 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5682
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Roger Peterson (24 May 1937–3 Feb 1959), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5682, citing Buena Vista Memorial Park Cemetery, Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, Iowa, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .