The Eastern campus is in mourning after the tragic and untimely death of one of its own.
Don Peterson, 28, had served the Eastern community as a reliable security guard for the past three years, but he was more than that.
He was a friend, a father, a son, a lover and a carefree spirit who had touched the lives of many.
“He had a lot of energy and had a lot of spirit,” Campus Security Director Jack Sheehan said. “Everybody loved him.”
Peterson died in his sleep from asphyxiation on Jan. 25. Even though he had been ill with a respiratory infection, the manner of death was still deemed accidental, according to Sheehan.
Peterson was one of the bike patrol officers at Eastern and enjoyed riding around campus. He had worked part-time as a security guard at Cabrini for the past couple of years where he was also loved, according to Sheehan.
Peterson was also a family man and a proud father. He is survived by his girlfriend Amy Shumoski and their one-year-old son, Aidan. He is also survived by his parents Donald and Rosemary Peterson who reside in Gladwyne, Pa.
According to Sheehan, Peterson embraced fatherhood and tried to spend as much time as he could with his family.
“I’m very sad about his death,” Sheehan said, but he was cheered by some fond memories. “Don had a wicked fastball.”
Peterson was a right-handed relief pitcher during his college days at St. Joseph’s University, from which he earned a degree in criminal justice.
However, according to Sheehan, it was not only the law that drew Peterson. He had already made considerable progress toward his goal of learning to fly.
For the past year he had been training to become a pilot and had worked his way through the various levels of licensing.
“He was done with schooling and was just working through his flight hours,” junior Lairen Hawk said. Hawk, a close friend of both Peterson and Shumoski, worked with Shumoski in Eastern’s mail center, where she is the supervisor.
“He was really excited about flying, and it was obvious it was a very big deal to him,” Hawk said.
On Jan. 30, friends and family were given the chance to express their sympathies and say goodbye to their friend at his viewing. Members of the Eastern and Cabrini communities came in great numbers to give condolences.
“There was a line out the door all night,” Sheehan said, explaining that the viewing went on an hour longer than expected.
“He was loved by so many people, as evidenced by his viewing,” Shumoski said in an email. “We received over 600 people that night.”
The following day, St. John Baptist Vianney Church in Gladwyne overflowed at his funeral, according to Sheehan.
“He was so full of life and always had something to say,” fellow security guard Hugh Byrne said. “He had a dry sense of humor that I really appreciated.”
“He was just a funny guy who didn’t take things too seriously,” Hawk said. “It’s so hard to lose someone who takes things to light like he did.”
Peterson’s legacy of friendship and love will not be forgotten by anyone who ever knew him.
“One person said that you only had to meet Don once to know he would be your friend for life,” Shumoski said.
“I join with the entire Eastern community in expressing sadness at Don’s untimely passing and committing prayers for Amy and their baby, Aidan,” President David Black said.
Eastern has reached out to Peterson’s family and embraced them throughout this time of immense grief. A scholarship has been created in Aidan’s name, and the biokinetics club is planning a dodgeball tournament in his honor.
“I am fortunate to have his son, Aidan, as my hope and an amazing family at Eastern who is supporting us,” Shumoski said.
Those interested in donating to the Aidan Peterson Education Fund may send their donations to the following address:
Aidan Peterson Education Fundc/o Robert J. Casey Jr, Esq.1500 Market Street2500 Centre Square WestPhiladelphia, PA 19102-2100