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Willie James Peterson

Willie James Peterson

Jul 19, 1951

Dec 8, 2022


Willie James Peterson, 71, of Louisville transitioned from his earthly home on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 at Norton Audubon Hospital.

Visitation 5-8 Wednesday, December 14, 2022 at Stoner Memorial AME Zion Church 1127 W. Oak Street. Funeral 11am Thursday, July 15, 2022 at the church. Burial Cave Hill Cemetery.

On July 19th, 1951, Willie James Peterson was born to the late Johnnie Lee Peterson Sr. and the late Mattie Lee Davis Peterson in Louisville, Kentucky. Willie was a lifelong resident of Louisville and grew up in the Smoke Town Neighborhood. He was a graduate of the Louisville Male High School Class of 1970. He received an Associates Degree in Applied Science, a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce and a Master of Education degree from the University of Louisville as well as a Master of Science degree from Eastern Kentucky University. Early in life Willie found the lord at St. Paul Baptist Church and continued to serve as a faithful member of Stoner Memorial AME Zion Church in Louisville, KY where he served on the Trustee Board and Men’s Brotherhood Choir. Willie was united in holy matrimony to Ms. Donna Louise Shumake on August 9, 1975 and they remained married, happy, devoted, and in love for the rest of her life. Through this union, they raised three children: Derrick Lamont, Devin DeShawn, and DeAndra LeeAnn. Willie began his professional career at the Ford Motor Company as a Line Supervisor in 1977. He was quickly promoted to manager of materials planning and logistics (MP&L) shortly after his start at the company and was the first African American to serve in that role. After 36 years of service in logistics, Willie retired in 2012 and was the highest ranking African American at the Louisville Assembly Plant. Willie was a co-organizer of the Ford-employees African-Ancestry Network (FAAN) in Louisville, chartered in 2009 by the leadership of Ford as a Resource Group. Willie was the Community Service Organizer for many years, and instrumental in the other Resource Groups in Louisville meeting to network and discuss issues impacting Ford employees. For many years, FAAN of Louisville was the largest of the FAAN Resource Groups at Ford. Willie was a faithful and supportive member from 2009- 2022. In 2007, Willie was inducted into Psi Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He served as Sire Archon, Sire Archon-elect, and Chair of the Social Committee. Willie provided exemplary leadership of the Social Committee for several years. The events he planned and led were key to strengthening the fabric of the fraternity and were accomplished with class, sophistication, and great fellowship. His Social Committee leadership enabled significant achievements of celebratory engagement of the members with respect to the 75th and 80th anniversary landmark events and holiday affairs. Willie was an active, highly engaged member of the fraternity, and an excellent leader during the global pandemic. During that period, he oversaw the remarkable growth of the fraternity where eleven new fraternity members were inducted. This ensured sustainability and made history as a committed leader. Willie’s long term dedication to Psi Boulé included his active participation in several regional/national fraternity meetings as delegate and/ or attendee. “It is with great sorrow that the Archons of Psi Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity mourn the loss of our beloved and highly regarded fraternal leader, Sire Archon Willie Peterson. He was a friend to us all and will be sorely missed. Deepest condolences to his family and friends.” - Archon Gerald Neal, Respectfully on behalf of Sire Archon-Elect Sean Owens and the members of Psi Boulé For 24 years, Willie was a member of Ye Ole Esquire Club, serving in multiple leadership roles including President, Vice President, Membership Chair, Acting Courtesy Committee Chair, and Entertainment Chair for the 75th Anniversary Gala. Willie was one of few Esquires to serve Ye Ole Esquire Club as President twice. He never sought accolades, and was a nuts and bolts kind of leader and member who rolled up his sleeves to make things work. Members respected Willie for his ability to get things done while others debated how to do them. Willie was the rock of Ye Ole Esquire Club, often holding down multiple committee chairmanships at once. As a social club, the premier event is the Gala and Willie was always involved in the planning and execution of these annual events. Of these, the 77th Anniversary Gala at the Galt House was a Willie Peterson production where Distinguished Esquire Judge Benjamin Shobe was honored for his outstanding contributions to the field of Law and his service to the civil rights movement locally and nationally. Willie took pride in the Galas as well as the holiday parties at The Willows. His eye for perfection was seen in every detail. His two terms as President focused on the club’s purpose and bringing in quality men as members.

“Willie Peterson now joins the illustrious Ye Ole Esquires who have transitioned to their heavenly reward. His name will be forever held in high esteem in the history of Ye Ole Esquire Club.” - Ye Ole Esquire Club Willie was a dedicated member of the 100 Black Men of Louisville, Inc. for over 30 years. He was past President and Vice President of the chapter, as well as business relationship advisor and past chair of the Event Planning Committee. He was a recognized leader in all areas of the 100 and a mentor to many
young men whose lives he impacted positively over the years.
“Willie will be truly missed by our membership in Louisville and nationally by the 100 Black Men of America.” - Roger Reynolds, Parliamentarian, 100 Black Men of Louisville, Inc.
Everyone who knew Willie knew he loved his family and his friends. His heart was as big as his smile that lit up every time he saw a cherished member of his circle. Whether family or friend; whether you called him ‘Willie’, ‘Will’, or ‘Pete’ - once you were his, you were his for life. He was always willing to step in with a helping hand, and was the proudest cheerleader, encouraging those he loved and celebrating their accomplishments. He was selfless in his service to his community and dedicated many hours to the organizations he loved, including volunteering at the Chestnut Street YMCA and serving on the Board and assisting with fundraising for Black Achievers. All who knew him had stories of his generosity, warm
spirit and willingness to talk and share his life lessons and sage advice. To Willie, life was a series of teachable moments and he made sure to capitalize on those moments to share knowledge, mentor a young person, or “school” whoever was sitting across from him in a spades game. Willie loved to play spades.

After he married Donna, her siblings and family became his family - never his “in-laws”, they were his “in-loves”. They did everything together - family dinners, vacations, celebrations, and parties; and Willie loved a good party! Whether cutting up the dance floor, chatting with friends, circling the party with his distinctive stroll, or serving as the “host with the most”for countless family celebrations and holiday parties, Willie loved having a good time and wanted everyone around him to have a good time too. His Derby parties were legendary, with celebrity hosts, chefs, and entertainment. Even after he stopped hosting his annual Derby party, people still showed up looking for a good time!
Willie loved having a good time and made sure he looked good while doing it. Wearing a tuxedo and bow tie, an Adidas tracksuit, Louisville Cardinals gear, or his ever present cap, Willie always looked sharp. Regardless of where he was going - to an event, to dinner, or to his grandson’s football game, Willie was decked out. He loved to shop and had personal relationships with the store associates in the men’s departments at Von Maur, Dillards, and Macy’s. Willie’s family and friends benefited from his love of shopping, often receiving brand new clothes passed down from Willie when he ran out of space to store them!

Willie was also a loyal Louisville Cardinals fan, and enjoyed attending games near and far with his wife, children and friends. Wherever the “Cards” were playing, Willie would be there in head-to-toe Cardinals gear - even traveling out of the country for basketball tournaments! He was a season ticket holder for many years, and developed close relationships with his “neighbors” in the Yum Center.

Willie Peterson was a loving and giving husband, father, grandfather, uncle, son, and brother. He loved his children, the ones he raised and the ones he claimed – his numerous nieces and nephews, friends of his own children, and all those who affectionately called him “Uncle Will”. But most of all, he loved his grandchildren. He was a proud and devoted “PaPa”, shuttling his grandchildren to school and sports practices, helping with homework assignments, and cheering loudly from the stands at games. Nothing made Willie smile more than a hug and kiss from his grandbabies.
Willie was preceded in death by his father, mother, brother Johnnie Lee Peterson Jr. and loving wife Donna Louise. He leaves a loving and devoted family to cherish his memory: his children Derrick Peterson, Devin Peterson, and DeAndra Peterson (Antwan) Maxwell; brothers Stephen (Susie) Grady and Phillip Grady; sisters-and-brothers-in love Albert H. Shumake II, Jocelyn (George) Dave, Erich V. (Connie) Shumake, Lynn Watson, and Michael (Marilyn) Shumake; grandchildren, Kiah Peterson, Donovan Abren, Marley Bell, Trent Morgan, Dane Peterson, Ariana Maxwell and Antwan Maxwell Jr.; devoted partner Rachael Newby and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and devoted and loving friends.

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