US LGBTQ sports leader Rick Peterson dies :: Bay Area Reporter


Rick Peterson, a gay man and former co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, died August 15 after being pulled out of the water while swimming in Seattle’s Lake Washington. He was 71.

Thomas DeVera, Mr. Peterson’s life partner, wrote in an email that Mr. Peterson swam his 85th mile this summer with his orange swimming buoy strapped to his waist. According to a medical evaluation, he most likely suffered an abnormal heart rhythm that caused him to lose consciousness and later suffocate, DeVera wrote.

Mr. Peterson, a longtime Seattle resident, served as the FGG’s first co-president from 1989 to 1994 after moving from the San Francisco Arts and Athletics. He was also an Honorary Life Member of the Association for his contributions and services.

During an Aug. 29 Zoom call, DeVera said he met Mr. Peterson 21 years ago and they became partners in December 2001.

“He’s already lived a rich life,” DeVera said. “He has inspired so many people and that goes beyond his work with the Federation of Gay Games and swimming in general. Rick gave time to the AIDS community. Rick ran an advertising agency that he started after 9/11.”

Mr. Peterson co-founded Hydrogen, a Seattle-based advertising agency, with business partner Tom Scherer in September 2001. Both founders believed that simplicity was the key to creating powerful advertising and marketing solutions, so they named the agency after the simplest element in the universe, according to Mr. Peterson’s biography. As President of Hydrogen, Mr. Peterson’s steady hand has helped guide the agency through economic ups and downs throughout its 21-year history. Although Mr. Peterson retired from Hydrogen in 2017, he continued his support to ensure the continued success of the company.

Julie Averill, a lesbian, was a longtime friend of Mr. Peterson and joined DeVera on the Zoom call with the Bay Area Reporter. She said she met Mr. Peterson when they worked together at a small company, (now Aris Corporation), in Seattle many years ago. Mr. Peterson served as creative director, she said.

“We developed a very close friendship that lasted 25 years,” said Averill.

dr Bob Wood also attended the Zoom call. A former director of Washington’s King County HIV/AIDS program, which includes Seattle, Wood said his friendship with Mr. Peterson dates back to the late 1970s. When the AIDS epidemic hit, the county health department hired him, said Wood, a gay man who had seen mostly gay patients in his private practice.

Wood said that he and Mr. Peterson were involved with the Dorian Group, an early gay rights organization in the Pacific Northwest, and they served on the membership committee together.

“He was very reluctant to talk about himself,” Wood said.

Well before the Gay Games, Mr. Peterson lived in San Francisco after graduating from college, around 1973, Wood said. In 1977 he was back in Seattle.

gay games

It was Mr. Peterson’s involvement in Gay Games that is remembered by many San Francisco LGBTQ athletes and others involved in the quadrennial athletic competition.

Most recently, Mr. Peterson was involved with Gay Games 11 Hong Kong. It should have taken place this year but was postponed to 2023 due to the COVID pandemic. (Guadalajara, Mexico will be co-hosting Gay Games 11 next year.) Dennis Philipse, founder and former team leader at Gay Games 11 Hong Kong, wrote in an email that Mr. Peterson joined his partnership development team in 2018 and is “passionate has worked “Get sponsors.

“After the first few phone calls with him, I immediately felt his incredible passion, energy and experience for LGBTQ+ sports and the community,” Philipse wrote. “He helped us attract Marriott, Google and Lululemon as anchor sponsors, despite the COVID and political situation in Hong Kong.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Rick as it’s always been fun, lots of energy and he’s always made me feel like a mentor,” added Philipse. “I am grateful for his friendship and all he has done, seen and more importantly made invisible for our community.”

Christof Wittig, a gay man living in San Francisco, is also involved with the Gay Games and praised Mr. Peterson’s success in finding sponsors.

“Rick has been instrumental in efforts to increase commercial sponsorship funding for Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong given the lack of financial support from the local government,” wrote Wittig, head of fundraising for the event, in an e-mail. Mail. “This led to prolific sponsors such as Marriott Bonvoy, Google YouTube, Lululemon, Standard Chartered and Gilead standing behind the idea that even in new regions like Asia, the world of LGBTQ+ people can continue to be changed for the better through sports and arts programs of the Gay Games since its first edition in San Francisco in 1982.”

Derek Liecty, a longtime Gay Games competitor who lives in the East Bay – the 90-year-old said he competed in all cycling events but had to withdraw due to injury – recalled Mr Peterson’s involvement fondly.

“I knew him very, very well,” Liecty said in a phone interview. “Rick Peterson has been the calming force of the Federation through all their travails. He was intelligent, resourceful and essentially uncontroversial.”

Liecty said he believes Mr. Peterson’s enduring contribution “will be the fact that, although unfulfilled, at the time of his death he was on the verge of arranging major corporate sponsorship for the Gay Games.” He noted Mr Peterson’s involvement in finding sponsorship for the Hong Kong Gay Games, but said the association as a whole had not secured any major long-term financial support.

“I hope someone can pick up where they left off,” Liecty added. “I just wish we had more like him in the league. On the other hand, I think it’s a miracle that this non-profit organization has been around for 40 years.”

in a (n Essay written by Mr. Peterson for FGG’s 40th anniversary earlier this year, he explained that he found out about Gay Games – the first being held in San Francisco in 1982 – through his girlfriend Dana Cox, who followed up on the event where he had won two gold medals Seattle had returned while swimming.

“In fact, back in 1982, I didn’t have a chance to participate in Seattle’s burgeoning gay community as a swimmer or athlete (other than bowling and softball back then plus a little bit of volleyball), let alone anything as awesome – it sounds like what Dana described – along with.” about 1,500 other LGBTQ+ athletes and artists at the Gay Games opening ceremonies to walk into Kezar Stadium and be serenaded by Tina Turner!” Mr. Peterson wrote. “I think Dana was the only swimmer from Seattle. I was intrigued .”

An avid and accomplished swimmer from the age of 10 until he graduated from college, Mr. Peterson decided in 1984 to start a gay swim team in Seattle with Cox and another friend, John Horman. “We called ourselves the Emerald Orca Swim Club (Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City because it’s surrounded by evergreen forests and mountains). I became co-captain and shortly thereafter I was joined as co-captain by Allison Beezer – a wonderful woman who engages in guiding clients through socially responsible investing and financial planning,” wrote Mr. Peterson. “One of our biggest first goals was to , swimmers and divers from Seattle to compete in the Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986. Dana would no longer be the only swimmer at the Seattle Gay Games!

“To get ready, not only did we have to practice swimming, we needed coaching, we needed access to the pool, we had to actually practice swimming competitively, jumping off the starting blocks, doing legal turns at the end of each pool length, not getting disqualified for touching the bottom of the pool with one hand instead of two hands at the same time as required by the US Masters Swimming Rules for breaststroke etc.,” he added.

He explained the long process of getting the Orca Swim Club to hold what he believed to be the first USMS-sanctioned LGBTQ+ swim meet in the country in 1987 after the Gay Games II.

“This started a dramatic new chapter in my Gay Games adventures. During the five years that I have served as FGG Co-President, it has been exciting to see Gay Games grow from 3,500 participants at the Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986 to 7,500 participants at Gay Games III in Vancouver in 1990 to 11,500 participants in 1994 at the Gay Games IV in New York City,” Peterson wrote. “And along the way, breaking down barriers and celebrating the development of sports and cultural groups — and hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ athletes and artists provide exciting opportunities worldwide to participate, be included and achieve personal bests.”

Other community service

Wood said that Mr. Peterson served on the board of directors of the Northwest AIDS Foundation (now part of Lifelong) and was president for two years.

Wood said one of the reasons he was involved with Gay Games was to help people become more physically active.

Mr. Peterson was born on August 6, 1951. He was a native Northwestern — raised in Bellingham, Wash. — and is both a cougar and a husky (with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Science). in Zoology from Washington State University). He was fast too. In 1999, Mr. Peterson lined up three US Masters Swimming National Top 10 times in the 50 & 100m freestyle and 100m breaststroke.

In addition to his partner DeVera, Mr. Peterson is survived by his brother and sister-in-law Greg and Leslie Peterson; his nephew Matthew Maher Peterson and niece Ashley Walker; and Mr. Peterson’s large community of friends, including the international swimming community.

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