Emily Minnette Peterson was born in Mitchell, South Dakota, November 26, 1915, as the third of four children to Roy Backus, an educator, and Ethyl Coburn Backus. Roy Backus was Superintendent of Schools in Wagner, Bonesteel, and Fairfax, South Dakota, and taught briefly in McCamey, Texas. He was an accountant for the Navy in the Pentagon during WWII. Minnette, as she preferred, graduated from Winner High School in Winner South Dakota, Class of 1933, having overcome polio. Minnette graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University with a BA in English and Latin. She taught English, Latin, Drama, Debate, and Declamation in Emery, Delmont, Witten, and Bonesteel, South Dakota High Schools, before deciding to concentrate on fourth grade teaching. As a young college graduate, Minnette was President of the Baptist Youth Group in South Dakota, and then fell in love with and married John Peterson of Bonesteel, South Dakota. They had one child, Roy Eugene Peterson. In 1956, Minnette moved with the family in 1956 to accept a fourth grade teaching position in McCamey, Texas, where she taught for 25 years. Minnette completed her Master of Education degree from Sul Ross College in Alpine, Texas. Minnette passed away on December 19. 2015 at the age of 100.
Minnette was a strong Christian throughout her life, teaching Sunday School, teaching at the Mexican Mission in McCamey, and crocheting crosses to pass around the world in her later years. Minnette had a powerful high soprano voice and trained for the opera in Spearfish, South Dakota, home of the Passion Play.
Her older brother, LTC, USAF (retired) Aaron Backus, pastored the First Baptist Church in McCamey, Texas, among other places. another older brother, Dr. Robert C. Backus, worked as a researcher and administrator for the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her sister, Lucille Backus, was National Speech Teacher of the Year for college and university professors and a nationally known expert on Robert's Rules of Order, chairing numerous national conventions.
Minnette was a certified Daughter of the American Revolution and was an ardent patriot, who made bandages from old sheets during the Korean War to support troops in combat. She is the descendant of the brother of Isaac Backus, the primary background influencer for freedom of religion of the drafting committee of the U.S. Constitution. Her close European heritage included the Earl of Warburton and the Coburns. Minnette was proud of her membership in Delta Kappa Gamma, the teaching fraternity and served as the Regional President.
Minnette is survived by her son, LTC US Army (retired) Roy Peterson and his wife, Marilyn; four grandchildren, Kristin Brinker and husband Keith, Melanie Shattan and her husband, Michael, Marcus Peterson; and Anthony Peterson and wife Kristeena; and eight great grandchildren.
Graveside services will be at 2pm on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, at the Resthaven Cemetery in McCamey. Arrangements are under the direction of Shaffer-Nichols Funeral Home