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COC Silver Spur Award becomes them

Harold and Jacquie Petersen of Valencia are named 2009 honorees of the COC Foundation Silver Spur Aw

Posted: March 12, 2009 12:44 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Left to right, Harold and Jacquie Petersen of Valencia, are awarded the Silver Spur Award for Community Service by COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. Left to right, Harold and Jacquie Petersen of Valencia, are awarded the Silver Spur Award for Community Service by COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Left to right, Harold and Jacquie Petersen of Valencia, are awarded the Silver Spur Award for Community Service by COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

It was a setting that befit the occasion, honoring two of the Santa Clarita Valley's most generous philanthropists - Harold and Jacquie Petersen of Valencia.

The College of the Canyons Foundation chose the Petersens to receive the 2009 Silver Spur Award for Community Service.

"I'm overwhelmed by being honored," said Jacquie Petersen. "It is an honor that I never, ever expected - and it makes me feel very humble."

Harold Petersen said he was flattered by the award.

"It was a great shock to be chosen for this award because these are our neighbors and our friends who selected us for this award and we had no way to think this would be coming our way," he said.

Son Tom Petersen said his parents are very deserving of the honor.

"This is a wonderful night - my parents love the city and the community so much - it is very nice that the community is paying honor to them as well," he said.

The 19th annual Silver Spur Award was presented to the Petersens in an elegant banquet room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The Silver Spur event is traditionally held away from the Santa Clarita Valley and past honorees have received their awards at locations as diverse as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Other locations have included the Gene Autry Museum, Los Angeles Southwest Museum, Peterson Automotive Museum, Sheraton Universal, Hollywood Entertainment Center, California Club, Sony Pictures Studios and Universal Studios.

Hosts for the evening were Gary Condie and Jeff Hacker, who co-chaired the event with their spouses, Myrna Condie and Kiki Hacker.

"When you look at that list of people we've honored the past 19 years it's a list of many wonderful people who have benefited the College of the Canyons and benefited the Santa Clarita Valley and made their mark," said Condie.

A fundraising auction to benefit the COC Foundation was held as guests dined on a first course of caprese salad followed by a choice of filet of beef or salmon.

Among the items offered was an overnight hotel stay in Beverly Hills which fetched $700; a day on son Tom Petersen's boat the "Valkyrie" which brought in $1,200; an opportunity to become "coach for a day" of the COC baseball team and an after game barbecue in the Cougar Den earned $800 and a seven-day Princess Cruise to the Caribbean or Mexican Riviera was sold for $2,100.

Other items included a "flying adventure" with Bill and Cathy Kennedy aboard their Cirrus SR-22G2 aircraft that was auctioned for $1,000 and a visit to the SCV set of television program "The Unit" which earned $500.

The Los Angeles Dodgers/Joe Torre package brought $800, a fireboat trip for six in San Pedro Harbor garnered $600 and a one week family vacation at the Maui Sunset condos at Kihei, Maui fetched $1,000. Bidding was fierce for the AT&T Champions Classic golf package where bidding ended at $2,000.

The "chef's table" for six at the Vines Restaurant at the Hyatt Valencia cost one lucky bidder $900.

One item remained unsold at the live auction which was conducted by Stokes Auction House.

The naming rights to the water feature at the entrance to the Dianne Van Hook University Center on the campus of College of the Canyons required a minimum bid of $25,000, which was not met.

A tribute video to the Petersens was introduced by Hacker and the audience was transfixed by the well-produced work which included numerous photos of the Petersens, as well as video interviews with the couple.

"This year's Silver Spur honorees don't need any introduction," said Hacker. "They are known around town as caring, generous philanthropists. Their friends enjoy watching them interact so much they call them the George Burns and Gracie Allen of the SCV."

The video brought laughter and applause from the audience.

Among the facts the audience learned about the Petersens during the evening:

n The couple are originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

n They met at a Walgreens soda fountain where Harold Petersen first spotted Jacquie enjoying a cherry Coke.

n They both attended the same high school, but Jacquie Petersen was a sophomore when Harold Petersen was a senior.

n Harold Petersen moved his insurance company, Petersen International Underwriters from Brentwood to Santa Clarita in 1992.

n In 2001 the couple moved from Brentwood to Valencia.

"I don't know that we've ever lived where there are so many social functions as in Santa Clarita," said Jacquie Petersen. "If you go to one of these you may have seen the same group of people the week before, but everyone is so happy to see each other, it's a very social community and a very giving community."

Harold Petersen discussed his formative years after his father became injured and the family farm was lost. This family tragedy led to his career in insurance.

"One interview (with Mutual of Omaha) and I was smitten because this little product called disability insurance could have saved the farm, the dairy herd, a life of toil for my sisters and myself and my mother - how could I turn my back on that?" he said.

The Petersens were married on April 23, 1949. The have four children, Constance, Michael, Mark and Thomas.

The couple likes to keep busy.

"We're happiest if we're doing things. To sit down and relax, we don't know what relax is - even at our age - we're always busy with friends or doing something," she said.

Among the groups supported by the Petersens, in addition to COC, are Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, the SCV Boys and Girls Club, the Child and Family Center and the Boy Scouts of America.

"Their cheerful spirit is infectious and their dedication to the community is heartfelt," intoned the narrator of the tribute video. "They are eternally optimistic and their respect and affection for each other is the stuff of storybooks. They are special people who understand what education has done for them and their family and have chosen to support education in all its forms in the SCV."

At the conclusion of the video the audience rose as one to applaud the couple.

"Jacquie and Harold, we all love you and that's why we're all here with you tonight," said Condie.

COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook also paid tribute to the Petersens.

"It is a distinct honor to be able to recognize Harold and Jacquie Petersen," Van Hook said. "There is something about working on a farm that shapes a person's character. For one thing it makes you humble, it keeps you true to your roots, which is why, despite having lived in Los Angeles for more than 40 years - the epicenter of celebrity and fame - that Harold and Jacquie were so nervous about tonight. They were a little shy, they are Midwesterners at heart."

Van Hook said the Petersens are "willing to help when needed, doing what it takes - but uncomfortable with the spotlight and receiving credit for what they have done and for their generosity."

Another standing ovation greeted the couple as they came to the stage to present the plaque, adorned with a pair of silver spurs from Van Hook.

The couple proceeded to entertain the audience with their clever, warm wit. Guests responded with a steady stream of laughter before they ended the night with a salute to Burns and Allen.

"We thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed the evening as we have," said Harold Petersen. "With that - say goodnight Jacquie."

"Good night George," Jacquie responded.


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