By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City resident and longtime Record-Eagle parenting columnist Evelyn Petersen dedicated her life to helping children and families.
"She was very insightful," said Lois Kowalsky, retired Associate Director for Interlochen Arts Camp Admissions and Petersen's friend for more than 30 years. "She understood people's feelings, and she knew so much about children."
Petersen, 76, died Thursday after an eight-month battle with cancer. Her legacy includes thousands of columns, books, videos and brochures on practical parenting, based on sound child development principles and field experience, as well as personal experience raising four children.
A child and family advocate and expert on child development and early education, Petersen had related degrees from Purdue and Central Michigan Universities. Throughout her 45-year teaching career — most recently for Bay Mills Community College — she worked with children, parents and teachers from pre-school to post-graduate levels.
She also performed in-depth training and federal compliance reviews for teachers and parents in hundreds of early childhood and Head Start programs in 30 states and 16 Tribal Nations, including Alaska and Hawaii.
Petersen wrote weekly Parent Talk and Teen Talk columns for the Detroit Free Press for 11 years starting in 1984. For 20 years her columns were syndicated to papers nationwide by the Knight Ridder Tribune Wire. She also wrote for the Nashville Tennessean and was a regular feature writer for Children and Families magazine, the journal for the National Head Start Association, for five years.
She was a charter member of the Michigan State Board for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and was honored by the Michigan State Legislature for her positive, award-winning parenting columns.
In her monthly column for the Record-Eagle, Ask Evelyn, Petersen answered readers' questions with her sometimes humorous, sometimes challenging "nuts and bolts" advice. She also gave online advice through The National Parenting Center, where she was a member of the expert panel since 1992, and through her own website, askevelyn.com.