Cover photo for Franklynn D. Peterson's Obituary
Franklynn D. Peterson Profile Photo

Franklynn D. Peterson

May 25, 1938 — June 16, 2024


Franklynn “Frank” Don Peterson passed away on June 16, 2024 in Adams, WI.

Frank was a longtime resident of Madison, WI with his beloved wife, Judi K-Turkel, who passed away on February 7, 2024. Frank and Judi shared five children: Joseph Kesselman of Arlington, MA; Jeffrey (Shelley) Kesselman of West Lafayette, IN; Alicia (Tom) Peterson of Stony Brook, NY; David (Sarah) Peterson of Omaha, NE; and Kevin (Barb) Peterson of Belleville, WI. They had six grandchildren: Kasi (Andrew) Frymark, Allison (Clayton) Stoffel, and Ellie, Joshua, Ruth, and Nichol Peterson. They were also blessed with four great-grandchildren: Emmy, Sabrina, and Gabriel Frymark, and Finley Mae Stoffel.


Frank was born to Frances (Watson) and Don Peterson in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp near Phillips, WI. He grew up in paper mill towns and fondly remembered summers at the family dairy farm near Phillips. In 1956, he enrolled at the UW-Madison (B.S. Sociology and Mass Communications). There he became a fearless civil rights activist, joining radical and anti-racist groups, and organizing campus forums and picketing.


During his time in Brooklyn, NYC (1960-1975), Frank developed as a courageous photojournalist, documenting places and events such as the Bedford-Stuyvesant rent strikes, homelessness in the Bowery, the March on Washington, armed racial clashes in Bogalusa, and the plight of Kentucky coal miners. Settling back in Madison in 1975, Frank continued to photograph the beauties and struggles of places around the globe, including Jamaica, Japan, Cuba, Turkey, and the US Southwest. His award-winning photography and photojournalism works have been widely published, exhibited, and archived.


Further information about Frank’s vibrant history and work may be found in his memoir Whitey Joins the Revolution: My Time With The Movement; and in the catalog for his 2010 exhibition Images from an Activist Lens: 1959-2008 at the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters’ Steenbock Gallery, both available through Amazon.


During his decades in Madison, Frank enjoyed an art-filled home and life with Judi on Gregory Street, building additions, gardening, attending plays and concerts, playing bridge, traveling afar (the kids have amused memories of journeying “out west” in the family van), and taking walks around the neighborhood. He and Judi authored DIY and repair books, study and writing guides, and CPA newsletters. Frank loved time with his grandchildren, telling stories and lighting up with boisterous laughter at their antics.


Frank converted to Judaism later in life, and he valued his learning and friendships at Beth Israel Center.


His son Jeffrey writes of Frank, “He was a tireless crusader against injustice wherever he perceived it. A front line soldier in this country's second, unacknowledged war to free the slaves. A political crusader. An activist in many venues and ways. He was also an artist with a social conscience who believed that art can, and should, critique life and inspire us to thought and action. A kind man and a peacemaker, too.” 


The family is grateful to the staff at Rosebrooke Assisted Living and Heartland Hospice, and to Kevin and Barb Peterson, for their skills, support, companionship, and care for Frank. Special thanks also to Jeffrey Kesselman for his thoughtful, well-researched guardianship.


A funeral service will be at 10:00 am on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 at Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison, WI 53705 followed by burial at Forest Hill Cemetery, after which there will be a lunch at Cress.


In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations be made to Jewish Social Services of Madison, to Beth Israel Center of Madison, or to The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, & Letters.


Franklynn Peterson portrait courtesy of Wisconsin People & Ideas Magazine


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