Agriculture Director Peterson Dies at 52

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Nancy K. Peterson, director of the state Agriculture Department, died early Saturday in Great Falls hospice care after a battle with melanoma cancer. She was 52.

Peterson was diagnosed with a recurrence of melanoma early last fall, but underwent treatment and was improving dramatically when the cancer spread to her brain and spinal cord in recent weeks, said Sarah Elliott, spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

“She will be deeply missed,” Schweitzer said. “Nancy has been a close personal friend, a wonderful boss and director and strong supporter of family agriculture in Montana. Nancy’s energy and zest for life were contagious. She worked hard and always had a smile on her face. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

Born in Havre and raised south of Gildford, Peterson carried on her family’s tradition in agriculture by farming more than 2,600 acres north of Havre. She also independently operated a private grain laboratory in Havre for two years and worked as a relief agent for Amtrak in Havre, Shelby and Wolf Point.

She succeeded Ralph Peck, who ran the Agriculture Department for nine years, when Schweitzer took office in 2004.

Deputy director Joel Clairmont will serve as acting director until Schweitzer names a permanent replacement, Elliott said.

Funeral services are tentatively planned for Wednesday in Havre.

Peterson is survived by her mother; two sons, Kody and Kyle; and three grandchildren.

Cards can be sent to: The Peterson Family, P.O. Box 687, Havre, MT, 59501. Donations can be made to a charity of the donor’s choice or to the Sletten Regional Cancer Center at Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls or Benefis Healthcare Foundation’s Gift of Life Housing Center in Great Falls.