Former State Rep. Mary J. Pettersen, who received her early education in a one-room school house in Iowa, enjoyed teaching chemistry and biology for almost 30 years at Hammond’s Morton High School, her son Charles Pettersen said.
Pettersen, 84, of Hammond, was chair of the school's science department for several years, working with students on science projects and eventually serving as a regional science fair judge.
Pettersen received her doctorate in science education, completing her course work during summer vacations, while providing in-service training in her field for Hammond elementary teachers which was the basis for her thesis project. Along with Cass Casmir and Greg Jancich, Pettersen operated a Youth Conservation Corps, working mainly with the Hammond Parks Department and School City planting trees and creating fitness trails with region students.
“She taught me that determination and hard work and effort in education pay off,” Charles Pettersen said. “You need persistence. Hard work is rewarded.”
Pettersen served eight years as an Indiana State Representative. A long-time member and former president of the League of Women Voters of the Calumet Area, Dr. Pettersen also was on the Hammond Teachers Association Board of Directors.
In 1989, Pettersen became the first female director of the Indiana Teachers Retirement Fund. She was also honored as a "Sagamore of the Wabash" by Gov. Evan Bayh.
Arlene Dickover, fellow teacher and her friend for 50 years, said Dr. Pettersen was a “giant.”
“She was very strong in teaching,” Dickover said. “She was for teachers’ rights.”
Dickover said Pettersen was a member of the Indiana State Teachers Association, participating in policy-making decisions.
“I was a board member,” Dickover said. “She gave me help and encouragement.”
Pettersen loved her pet cat and gardening.
Charles Pettersen said he will miss his mother’s optimistic personality.