Anna Mae Peterson loved Lake Superior -- so much that she made a living out of it.
Anna Mae Peterson never felt far from the foaming rumble of Lake Superior -- even when she lived in Roseville.
Peterson was born in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, grew up in Duluth and spent childhood summers with her grandparents along the lake in northern Wisconsin.
She followed her Two Harbors High School sweetheart Paul Peterson to Roseville, where the couple raised their four children, but returned after he died in the late 1970s. For the next quarter-century, she rented out a cluster of cabins and motel rooms on the North Shore.
Peterson, who even in retirement could feel Lake Superior's misty chill out the back door of the home she shared with her sister north of Duluth, died June 1. She was 83 and had been suffering from the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
"That lake can think of more ways to entertain you than you can imagine," Peterson said in a 2004 interview. "I can sit by my window and look at my lake."
Until a sewer assessment dispute forced her out in 2003, Peterson ran Cliff 'n Shore resort near Two Harbors. Tucked beneath Silver Cliff, her place entertained a steady clientele drawn to the lake's natural air conditioning, a cup of coffee and unhurried conversation.
"'Why won't they just let me die here?'" Pat McQuade recalled her sister saying as the argument over the assessment bill proved too much. "It was a pretty emotional time."
McQuade, who ran a resort with her husband barely a mile away, said a great majority of her sister's customers were regulars.
"She operated the place by herself, lived there and she loved it," McQuade said. "Her office was her kitchen table. They'd come in to pay, and there was coffee and two hours of conversation. They became more friends than customers."
Peterson was born Feb. 20, 1929, at the other end of Lake Superior, within two blocks of the locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. She and her siblings grew up on Duluth's Park Point and would head east for summers on the lake's south shore in Bayfield and Cornucopia, Wis.
Her southerly detour to Roseville lasted until her husband's death. Then it was back to the lake that acted as a backdrop for the resort she bought with every last available dollar.
"Sometimes [Superior is] so awesome you can't go to sleep," Peterson said in 1994. "Maybe it's because you don't want to go to sleep but want to stay awake listening. It's almost like the ice is alive, making those sounds. And then you look out and see these beautiful fragile blue tones in the ice."
Peterson is survived by her children, Christine Barton, of Albany, N.Y., Kay Pepper of Duluth, Russ Peterson of Oakdale and Terri Cerveny of Albany, N.Y.; her sister, Pat McQuade, of Duluth; and her brother, John McQuade of Two Harbors, Minn. There was no public memorial.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482