Ridge High School was only six years old when John Peterson graduated in 1967. Most of his classmates went off to college, and then started careers and families. John did not have these options. He joined the U.S. Army, and was sent to Vietnam. On the night of March 10, 1969, in Quang Tin Province, south of Danang, SP4 Peterson was killed by small arms fire. He was 20 years old.
John spent his high school years at Bonnie Brae Farm for Boys, then a residential facility for youngsters from troubled homes. Bonnie Brae offered a safe, structured haven to its young charges, but the transition to high-achieving Bernards Township schools, set in New Jersey's Somerset Hills, was not easy for some of its mostly urban youths. John made it look easy. At Ridge High, he distinguished himself not so much as a traditional scholar, athlete or artist; rather, we remember him as a friend, a participant and an optimist. John was not a victim of the circumstances that sent him away from home to endure adolescence among strangers; rather, he rose above that to develop his own character and personality, and was ready to launch what should have been a long and meaningful life. This quality earned him an award as “Most Improved Senior,” as well as friends and admirers with long memories.
His death soon after graduation meant that John never had the chance to find out what he could accomplish. But the qualities that he exhibited - optimism, determination, setting goals, and striving to overcome challenging circumstances - are admirable in high school students. We want to recognize and reward this in others, and help to give them the opportunities that John deserved.
John Peterson can be found on the Vietnam War Memorial on panel 29W, line 002. There are also entries for him on The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and The Wall-USA. More information can be found at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation. We thank you, John Peterson, for your service to our country, and create the Ridge Alumni Memorial Scholarship in your memory. We also want to acknowledge the loss of John's classmates (Hester Froehlich Moerck 1949 - 1979, David Earp 1949-1987, Glenn Apgar 1949-1991, Eric Birnbaum 1949-1994, John Gambrill 1948-1994, Carol Wagner Mussel 1949-2003, Janice Hotaling Wilker 1949-2004), and all fellow Ridge High graduates who have passed away. We will remember you always.