GEORGE CONRAD PETERSEN 1900-1978
Wendy Cutfield & Phyllis Potter
|George and Stella Peterson|
He was educated at the Mauriceville West Primary School and at the Masterton District High School. In 1916 he moved with his parents to Palmerston North where he worked as a law clerk and began studies in law. In 1923 he was admitted to the bar as a Barrister and Solicitor and for 48 years continued as a highly respected member of his profession.
|Jens P., Anna, George P., Alice P., Katherine C., Colin C., Colin P.|
Patricia P., Wendy PC, Phillis PP, Jean P.
The author of several historical works, two in particular have earned him the description of historian of Scandinavian settlement in New Zealand. "Forest Holmes", published in 1952, tells the story of the Scandinavian immigrants who came to New Zealand as part of Vogel's Public Works and Immigration Scheme. In this book he vividly describes the struggles of his own people of the Wairarapa in their efforts to build homes and a new life for themselves and their families and the substantial contribution they made in developing the country.
|Wendy, George, Pat|
George's children and grand children
In 1964, in recognition of his contribution to New Zealand history, Massey University awarded G.C. Petersen the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature.
Early in World War Two he played an active part in founding the Anglo-Danish Society of Palmerston North. Folk of Danish descent met regularly with the aim of raising money to send food and clothing to Denmark, invaded by the Nazis, and of encouraging the Danish people in this time by assuring them they were not forgotten by Danes living overseas.
Though the purpose was serious, the members enjoyed the social interaction, singing Danish songs and eating food made from Danish recipes, while those who still had relatives in Denmark felt comforted and supported by joining with people of similar background.
During this time also he was appointed Hon. Vice-Consul, later Consul for Denmark. The Royal Danish Consulate in Wellington was closed during the war years, and he traveled to Wellington regularly to attend to essential diplomatic business.
The war over, professional diplomats were sent out for three year terms, and Mr. Petersen acted as a liaison to maintain continuity in periods of sometimes months between one holder of the office leaving and the new appointee arriving. Later, the Consulate having been elevated to Embassy status, he was frequently called upon for advice on local matters.
From his own office in Palmerston North he did much to assist new immigrants from Denmark, to advise on legal problems, and to entertain Danes visiting this county. He himself visited Denmark on four separate occasions. His kindness, imagination and understanding for the problems of others, and his long memory for the people he met and the conversation they had together, caused many to know him as their friend.
For the long years of honorary service given to Denmark G.C. Petersen was in 1958 made Ridder af Dannebrog, and in 1968 this Order was raised to First Grade. Other Danish awards were the King Christian X Freedom Medal, the Medal of Liberation and the Galatea Medal.