Thomas J. Peterman, devoted diocesan priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, educator and writer, son of the late Catherine (McCaffrey) and Albert Peterman of Milford, passed peacefully at Millcroft in Newark.
Father Peterman was ordained in 1957. After his ordination, he was assigned to parishes with high schools where he taught first at Corpus Christi in Elsmere, and then served as principal successively in Holy Cross Dover and at St. Elizabeth in Wilmington. Having studied piano at Peabody Preparatory School while a seminarian in Baltimore, he used his musical abilities over the years conducting choirs and glee clubs and producing several high school musicals.
At the time of the diocesan Centennial, he completed and published his first book entitled, Priest of a Century, which presented a picture and biographical sketches of each deceased diocesan priest up to that time.
In 1970, he was appointed pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Perryville, Maryland, with missions at Rising Sun and Port Deposit. Four years later he became pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Church in Sharpley, Wilmington, where he served nine years. While pastor there he earned and received a doctorate degree in United States history from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. His dissertation on the founding of the observance of the U.S. Bicentennial program of “Liberty and Justice for All.” As part of that program, he contributed a series of historical articles for publication in the Dialog, the diocesan newspaper. He continued that series over a number of years.
In 1983, he was appointed pastor of Holy Cross Church in Dover, his birthplace. After four years there, he was transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Chestertown, with a mission church in Rock Hall. While pastor there, he published a third book entitled, Catholics in Colonial Delmarva. In 1994, he was transferred to St. Dennis Church in Galena, Maryland, where he completed and published three more volumes on diocesan history.
After a term of 12 years in Galena, he retired from the pastorate at age 75. He continued to minister regularly in Delaware and Maryland until his death at age 90, on August 3, 2021. He was honored and proud to serve as a priest for 64 years.
Father Peterman was devoted to his family and friends. He enjoyed gatherings at his cottage, trips to Rehoboth Beach, boating, playing croquet and watching beautiful sunsets. He was known for being an excellent storyteller, had a wonderful sense of humor and was considered a true lover of nature and animals. His presence at family holiday gatherings leading Christmas Carols, his wisdom, knowledge of history, zest for life, generosity and good nature will surely be missed.
Father Peterman is survived by his sister, Kay Prettyman of Wilmington; and younger brother, William of Oceanside California; 21 nephews and nieces and many great nephews and nieces.
A viewing will be held at Holy Cross Church, 631 S. State Street, Dover from 9-11 a.m. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial on Tuesday, August 10, 2021.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Diocesan Priest Retirement Fund in care of the Chancery Office, P.O. Box 2030, Wilmington, DE 19899.