Laurence W. Petersen


Laurence W. Petersen


Larry Petersen
Larry Petersen

Laurence W. Petersen died at home on Thursday, August 22, 2019, two days after his 77th birthday. His wife and four children were present, providing the stalwart, stoic, and mostly silent support Larry gave to them throughout their lives.

Larry was born on August 20, 1942, to Wayne and June Petersen. Almost a decade after his parents’ divorce, June married Frank Haswell, who became a second father to Larry. An only child for ten years, Larry relished his three brothers – Frank, Bruce, and Jack Haswell.  He enjoyed an idyllic Montana childhood in Whitefish. He spent his summers swimming in Whitefish Lake. He golfed the local courses, learning the rules and traditions of the game from his grandfather.  In the winter, he skied Big Mountain during its early years, earning half-day lift tickets by packing the runs in the morning to ski free in the afternoon.

An excellent student, Larry graduated from Whitefish High School in 1960.  Larry applied to University of Pennsylvania, not realizing it was an Ivy League school.  That choice proved fortuitous because, in Larry’s junior year, a friend arranged a blind date with Patricia Buchanan from Coudersport, PA, based solely on their compatible heights. Larry and Pat were married on July 13, 1963.  Pat insists that Larry stopped at every driving range they passed on their honeymoon. Though their heights remained mostly static, their love grew exponentially for five decades, entangling children, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and friends’ children in their strong bond.

While many of his contemporaries reveled in the freedoms of the 1960s, Larry graduated from the prestigious Wharton School with a degree in economics, moved back to Montana, excelled at the University of Montana School of Law, wrote for the law review, had three kids (John, Tim, and Kim), clerked for Federal District Judge Russell Smith, received his Masters of Law degree from New York University, and practiced law in Hamilton, Montana.  Larry was not at Woodstock.  In 1972, the  family moved to Billings, and they added Andrew to the clan in 1978.

Larry did not consider “parent” to be a verb, but he was active in the role.  He coached his children’s teams, helped with homework, and always spent a chunk of the summer recreating with his family at Whitefish Lake.  While being a father to young children was sometimes hard work, being a father to his four grown children simply made Larry happy.  When it came to his grandchildren, who called him “Bucca,” he was outright exuberant, though he did his best to tamp it down.

Larry liked a dry Beefeater martini (up with a twist), a good meal (never outside), an excellent wine (not overpriced), a trip to a new place (with good weather), a game of golf (played quickly), and an amusing story (told well).  He liked all those things even better when shared with his friends, and he had many.  Larry was a terrific conversationalist, listening more than he talked, but adding sardonic humor whenever appropriate.  His candor and his discretion were the hallmarks of friendship with Larry.

In addition to his family and friends, Larry loved two things: words and numbers.  He had a passion for reading, correcting his own and others’ grammar, and finding the perfect word.  He had not just an affinity, but a genius, for computation.  These two interests spontaneously combusted, creating a truly magnificent tax attorney.  Larry eschewed accolades, but his clients and his fellow lawyers greatly appreciated his skill and talent as a lawyer.

Larry achieved both success and happiness in his life.  Neither would have been possible  without Pat and their family.  Larry is survived by his wife of 56 years, Patricia Buchanan Petersen; by his children: John and wife Kristen, and their son Calvin of Seattle; Tim and wife Monica, and their children Jack and Addie of Seattle; Kim and husband Steve Macartney of Billings; Andrew Petersen, Laura Petersen, and their sons Hudson and Oliver of San Diego; by his brothers Frank Haswell (Kelly) of Seattle; Bruce Haswell (Julie) of Helena, Ron Petersen (Stephanie) of Shelbyville, Kentucky, and sister Lynn Reker (Richard) of Bowling Green, Kentucky; and by numerous nieces, nephews, in-laws, cousins, and devoted friends. Larry was predeceased by his father Wayne Petersen; his mother June Haswell; his stepfather Frank Haswell; his stepmother Marcia Petersen; and his brother Jack.

The family thanks Larry’s caregivers, particularly Drs. Cobb, Sorensen, and Lamm, and nurse Susie Olson.  The family also shares Bucca’s last bit of advice to his grandchildren: read a lot of books, and invest in index funds.

A funeral service will be held at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral on Thursday, September 12, 2019 at noon, with a reception to follow at the Yellowstone Country Club.  Condolences may be shared at  In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Frank I. and June A. Haswell Memorial Scholarship at the University of Montana School of Law, or to a charity of your choice.

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6 thoughts on “Laurence W. Petersen”

  1. We have so many fond memories of time spent with Larry and Pat when they visited our dear friends Tim, Monica, Jack, and Addie here in Seattle. From graduation parties to Thanksgiving dinners, it was always a pleasure to spend time with them. We appreciated Larry’s wry sense of humor and total devotion to his family – especially apparent in his love of his grandchildren! ❤️ Our deepest condolences for the Petersen family at this difficult time. May all your memories sustain you! Much love, Bente, Kelly, Zachary, and Natalie Fernandi

  2. From a former law partner and good friend (not who posted this)

    Larry was a brilliant and creative lawyer, never adequately appreciated by some of his Dorsey partners. I thought he was one of the better tax/business lawyers at the firm and the best I met in Montana. But as good as he was at the law, I will remember him for his quick and insightful wit and sense of humor and the range and depth of his intellect. He saw through pretense with clarity and honesty, to some discomfort to the self-important.

  3. In the summer before my family moved away from Billings, Larry and Pat were kind enough to let me join their family for a summer vacation in Whitefish, which remains one of the fondest memories of my childhood. Larry was a patient, decent, kind and funny man, obviously (even to an eleven year old) in love with and loved by his wife, and a wonderful father. He was very kind to me at a time when I needed kindness, and he welcomed me at a time when I desperately needed welcoming. I haven’t really seen him in a long time. But I’ve never forgotten him. My heart goes out to Pat, John, Tim and Kim. You are all in my prayers.

  4. Larry, you were the biggest of our big brothers. You and Patrick were the guides through the summers spent in Whitefish. Whether at the lake or in the woods or wandering the town, you helped to keep us out of trouble (sometimes not so much). You gave me my first baseball mitt. You will always be remembered as such.
    Cousin Matt Arnold

  5. I was a partner of Larry’s at the Dorsey law firm, and he persuaded me to represent some clients of his in litigation over rights to gold. We worked on the case, trial, appeals, remands, etc. for a number of years. That litigation brought us together through the years. Larry was a gifted lawyer with an ample sense of humor–most of it “dry,” but particularly useful was his humor at the expense of the those who were conceited, arrogant, self-important, and/or imperious. But Larry’s wit was secondary to his intention to do the best for his clients. Larry had good judgment, keen intelligence, and he cared for what was right. I was privileged to know and work with Larry. All my best to his family, which meant SO much to Larry. RIP.

  6. We were so sad to hear about Larry. He was always good for conversation and had excellent taste in books. Sending our thoughts out to Pat, John, Tim, Kim, Andrew, and all the Petersen family. Larry will be missed. Love, J, Korey, Beni, and Theo Marquez

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