Obituary for G. Chapman “Chap” Petersen
Chap Petersen passed away at his home in Hermosa, CO at the age of 88 on October 18, 2020, a beautiful fall morning with the sun streaming through the window, filling the room with light,
warmth, and peace. Chap was born George Chapman Guilbeau on June 28, 1932 in Lafayette, Louisiana, the only child of Leidlie Guilbeau and Hazel Sturgeon Guilbeau. His father died when Chap was two. Four years later his mother married Earle Petersen who adopted Chap. In 1940 he welcomed a half-brother John Earle Petersen. Time spent each year on his grandfather’s ranch in Oklahoma, from early childhood through college, was a major influence in his life, instilling a disciplined work ethic, a sense of independence and responsibility, as well as comfort and joy in outdoor work.
Chap graduated from Arlington Heights, IL High School, and obtained a BA from Denison University where he met the love of his life, Betsy Leuba. They were married in 1954 and would have celebrated their 66th anniversary on Christmas eve. He went on to earn a Doctor of Law from the University of Chicago, along with graduate work in business at the University of Colorado.
His career, mostly self-employed, included practicing law from his office at their Barrington
Hills, IL home, serving as an international business consultant, and investing in and developing tracts of land in several states. Betsy became his para-legal/secretary/office manager/business partner. Together they developed a successful Christmas Tree farm on the front five acres of
They delighted in their two children, Cindy and Scott. The children became involved in the Christmas Tree project at young ages, learning to plant, shear and shape the trees, and finally
to sell, cut and load trees on vehicles. A highlight for the family was spending summers at their summer cabin near Frankfort, MI. Chap’s penchant for exercising was observed by their
Michigan friends as he jogged, swam, bicycled, and kayaked nearly every day. At his home in Illinois, it was not unusual for him to invite long-time clients to continue their conversation in his well-equipped home gym so he could begin his workout on time.
Throughout his life Chap would set goals and then work diligently to achieve them. He traveled extensively, both for business and the joy of learning about other cultures, visiting all 50 states and more than 180 countries. He enjoyed learning foreign languages both to better serve his
clients, and to be able to speak directly with locals on his travels and thus better understand
their cultures. He created a fictional character, a young boy who gradually grows older, about whom he wrote four adventure stories for his children, each taking place on different
continents; over the years he completed five more stories to complete the series.
In 1999 Chap and Betsy left their Illinois home of nearly 40 years and moved to Durango where they began hiking and exploring in the mountains, joined Seniors Outdoors, became members of Professional Associates at FLC, and volunteered at some of the local non-profits. Chap read his adventure stories to the Park Elementary students and also to groups of older adult friends, both of whom expressed enjoyment in hearing them.
When Chap discovered that he had Parkinson’s Disease, he treated it as one more challenge to overcome. He continued to exercise and strengthen his body, keeping ahead of the adversary for well over a decade, still moving as best he could until his final days. Amazingly for such a self-reliant man, when assistance became necessary he accepted it graciously and gratefully.
Chap was preceded in death by his parents and his brother John Earle Petersen. He is survived by his wife, Betsy Petersen, his daughter Cynthia Lee Pugsley (Bret) now residing in Durango, his son Jason Scott Petersen of Traverse City, MI, grandson Daniel Pugsley and granddaughter Grace Pugsley, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, cousins, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Plans for a Celebration of Life are underway.
Memorials in Chap’s memory may be designated to Hospice of Mercy, and made either online at Mercy Health Foundation, or to Mercy Health Foundation, 1010 Three Springs Blvd., Durango, CO 81301.