Rep. ‘Jack’ Peterman of Milford dies after long illness

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House Majority Leader Valerie J. Longhurst, D-Bear, welcomed Rep. Harold “Jack” Peterman, R-Milford, back to the House chamber in January. (Delaware State News file photo)

MILFORD − Rep. Harold “Jack” Peterman, R-Milford, died Wednesday following a long illness. He was 74.

Rep. Peterman, who was not seeking re-election, had been battling health issues for years.

He underwent several back surgeries to address pinched nerves that caused serious pain and limited his mobility. In March he announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would not run for a fourth term.

“Jack Peterman was an inspiration to his colleagues in the General Assembly,” House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford, said in a statement. “Over the last three years of his life, he was in almost constant pain. There were many occasions during that period when his health would have been better served by his remaining at home, but he pushed himself to get to the capitol just to ensure his constituents were heard in the legislature.”

Due to his health, he missed 56 of 86 regularly scheduled legislative days in the 148th General Assembly across 2015 and 2016. He was present for the first day of the second leg, receiving a warm welcome from fellow representatives.

Rep. Peterman said at the time it was “wonderful” to be back in Legislative Hall. While he said then he planned to file legislation related to care for senior citizens, he did not introduce any bills in the 148th General Assembly.

First elected in 2010 to represent the 33rd District in southeast Kent County, Rep. Peterman previously served as a member of the Kent County Levy Court from 1990 to 2006.

He lived in the Milford area his entire life, graduating from Milford High School, and worked as a farmer.

“Jack was a fixture in the Milford community who was proud to represent his hometown in the General Assembly, where he continued the service he started over many years of civic engagement,” Gov. Jack Markell said in a statement. “I know his colleagues and friends admired the courage and determination with which he battled recent health challenges and I was saddened to learn of his passing today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

Rep. Peterman was a former board member of the Frederica Senior Center and the Food Bank of Delaware and a past president of the Frederica Lions Club.

His wife, Sandra, and granddaughter Madison were killed in a car crash in 2009. Sandra was 65 and Madison was 9.
In a joint statement, state Republican Party Chairman Charlie Copeland and Kent County GOP Chairman Hank McCann offered their sympathies to Rep. Peterman’s family and friends on his passing.

“Jack Peterman was not only a member of our party, but he was our friend,” they said. “His work on behalf of the residents of the 33rd District was an example of what it truly means to be a public servant. All who crossed Jack Peterman’s path were met with his infectious smile and his warm spirit that will never be matched.”

House Speaker Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, called Rep. Peterman “an honorable and conscientious man” in a statement.

Although the General Assembly is no longer in session, Rep. Peterman technically still held the 33rd District seat, making him the first state lawmaker to die in office since Sen. Thurman Adams in 2009.

Three Republicans and one Democrat are running for the seat.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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