Share Your Memory of
Obituary of Peter Matthew Carlson
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Peter Matthew Carlson. He left us too soon, but his sense of wonder, which remained to the end, delivered a life full of beauty and meaning. In his final days he made it clear he had no regrets and that he was grateful for all he had experienced. Indeed, his final gift to us was to meet cancer with grace.Peter was born on April 15 1942 to Mary and Chester Carlson in Racine, Wisconsin. He was the loving older brother of Patty and Ruthie, with whom he remained close throughout his life. When he was 12, his family moved to Yorkville, Wisconsin to run a general store. To hear him tell it, he was a shy child at times hesitant to take on new experiences. Evidence suggests otherwise, however, given that he was president of student council and lettered in sports. After high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin, where he was a member of several honorary societies in recognition of leadership, academic excellence, and contribution to extracurricular activities.Following Madison, Peter moved to Seattle to pursue his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Washington. It was a field to which he would remain dedicated throughout his working life, a natural fit for his intellect and compassion. His most important achievement while in Seattle, however, was to find the love of his life, Mary. He never got over feeling lucky to walk through life with her, and delighted in expressing his love through poems, love letters, and gifts throughout their 52 years of marriage. He and Mary were a couple in the true sense of the word, enjoying life’s beauty and meeting its challenges as one.After receiving his PhD, and returning penniless from backpacking across Europe, Peter and Mary moved to London, Ontario so that he could pursue a job teaching at the University of Western Ontario. In time, he concluded that the life of a professor was not for him, as he wanted to focus on serving patients. But his years in London led to other important discoveries, including friendships that would remain throughout his life and the realization that Canada was home. It was also in London where he and Mary started a family of their own, with the births of Ann and Matthew. His kids were a focus from then on, and over the years he took advantage of opportunities to involve himself with their lives, such as helping with sports teams, serving on parent committees at their schools, and calmly providing advice when sought.The next stop after London was Kingston, where Peter hit full stride and remained for the rest of his life. His proudest professional achievement was to be instrumental in establishing the Community Brain Injury Services, an innovative approach to rehabilitation that focused on supporting patients as they strove to once again contribute to the community. Other contributions to his profession included teaching graduate courses at Queens University and serving on the executive of the Ontario Psychology Association. He loved the Kingston community, and developed close friendships with neighbours and others that shared interests such as theater, food, skiing, and spirituality. A key part of this community for decades was Chalmers United Church, where he served as Moderator of the Congregation.Peter took pains to express thoughts on life, one of which was that it is more important to ask questions than to have answers. By this he meant that one should greet new people and experiences with an open mind. This perspective resulted in a diversity of interests, many with humble beginnings. While his kids remember a time when Dad’s night to cook meant hotdogs and peas, he grew into a gourmet who enjoyed cooking almost as much as experiencing delicious food and fine wine. What began as a fitness kick motivated by the 1976 Olympics in Montreal evolved into an exercise routine that he religiously followed until his body was no longer willing. Weekly family letters that were initially a way to stay in touch with his Mom grew into an outlet to express his unique perspective on daily life. Overtime, his letter writing grew into a daily habit of journaling and writing poetry that, when shared, was enjoyed by family and friends alike. Peter’s pursuit of new experiences was perhaps best illustrated by a love of travelling he shared with Mary. Together, they took two years off work to travel the world and continued to seek new lands and cultures during retirement.Peter enjoyed watching his family grow, as Ann married Kristian, Matt married Kelly, and both had kids of their own (Katelyn, Sam, Molly, and Andrew). He took solace in his grandkids, and youth in general, with the perspective that their vitality could only lead to a better world.His family thanks the compassionate staff at Kingston General Hospital, as well as family and friends for their support during this journey.A private internment ceremony is being held this weekend at the Cataraqui Cemetery. A public celebration of his life will occur this summer, with details to be announced. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Nature Conservancy of Canada or the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area are appreciated. Arrangements entrusted to CATARAQUI CEMETERY AND FUNERAL SERVICES.