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Man honors wife on Wedding Anniversary with charity donation  

By Rob Daniel
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Saturday, October 28, 2006

WEST BRANCH -- Friday would have been Cecil and Bernice Petersen's 63rd wedding anniversary.

However, Bernice Petersen died April 2. Cecil Petersen decided to remember his wife, a 1943 West Branch High graduate, by donating $100,000 to the West Branch Education Foundation. The gift is the largest in memory in the history of the school district, superintendent Craig Artest said.

"I just wanted her to be remembered," Petersen said as he held a framed photograph of himself with his wife.

Bernice Hayslette graduated from West Branch High in spring 1943 and married Cecil Petersen in October 1943. He soon left home to serve in the Army and both received monetary allotments from the federal government for his service. He signed over about 90 percent of his money to her.

"She had every dime when I came home," Petersen said. "She never talked about it. She never spent a dime."

The allotment grew with interest over the next 60 years as the couple raised eight daughters.

"She was a wonderful woman," he said. "She always believed in helping everyone."

Petersen said they spoke often about donating money to a cause, and the West Branch Schools always remained a possibility. Several months after she died, he decided to donate the money to the schools on their wedding anniversary.

"I said that would be a good day, a day I wouldn't forget," he said.

The money will be used for scholarships and other items yet to be determined, Artest said.

"It gives kids other chances to succeed and gives them a future," he said.

Petersen said he is confident Bernice would have appreciated the donation.

"I hope this all comes to good," he said. "I know she would be happy."

Reach Rob Daniel at 339-7360 or

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