by Mike Knaak
Jerry Peterson’s life has been about opening doors. Those doors led to military service, world travel, multiple academic degrees and careers as a youth minister, hospital chaplain and landscaping business.
Now his “doors” are the centerpiece of a self-published book, “99 Doors to High Level Wellness: How to Live to be 100.”
The book features photographs of doors he’s taken on his world travels and on facing pages you’ll find inspirational quotes.
You can’t buy Peterson’s book online or in a bookstore. He gives it away and asks readers to pay him back by passing it along to others.
On the dedication page he writes, “A simple book. Profound ideas from people, books, etc. (and) Pictures from all over the world….Open it, read and look at it one page at a time, think about it and add your own thoughts in the margin. Ideas may increase your happiness which leads to health, optimism, joy, longer life and spiritual renewal.”
Peterson, 86, lives in Cold Spring. Two of his three adult children live in St. Joseph and the third lives in St. Cloud.
Peterson’s path to doors began with his 1932 birth in Sleepy Eye and his youth in Springfield. He served in the Army during the Korean War and then on to college at Hamline, Boston University and Duquesne University where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in sociology, psychology, Christian education and theology.
Peterson served as Methodist youth minister for more than 20 years and then served as a chaplain at Hennepin County Medical Center. He started a landscaping business in St. Cloud. “Every six or seven years it’s time to move….time to move into another profession,” Peterson said.
He found the doors for his book during his travels.
“As I traveled, every state in the union and around the world, I got caught up with doors,” he said. “I was fascinated by doors in cathedrals and castles. A door around here isn’t much, you don’t look at it twice. The castles and great big cathedrals have got great doors.”
The quotes facing the doors come from a variety of sources and people including Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer.
His door photography began in the early 1990s as he traveled through Europe, South America, the West Indies and Asia.
He’s given away about 75 copies of the book to friends, family and neighbors and there are copies at St. Cloud Hospital, the St. Cloud VA hospital and several nursing homes.
“I never thought I’d have so much pleasure out of writing a book and giving it away,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s modest one-bedroom apartment mirrors his life philosophy and adventures. Photos and paintings line the walls. A copy of van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night” hangs next to an image of a cabin in the north woods…reminding him of the canoe trips he’s taken with youth ministry groups and grandchildren. A handwoven rug from Bolivia hangs on another wall and a corner table holds a wooden bowl from Ireland.
Peterson proudly explains that he travels economically with a backpack and that his Kia gets more than 40 mpg. He keeps in shape by following a daily exercise routine he’s been doing for 40 years. He rides a stationary bike every day and lifts weights three times a week.
“My wealth is in my health, my family and friends. That means more,” he said.
His book is dedicated to his family and friends and “all who create doorways and those who have the courage to enter them.”
Peterson certainly has created and entered more than his share.