• Fri May 28 2010
  • Posted May 29, 2010
By Tom Alex & Daniel P. Finney This was supposed to be a happy weekend. The teenager had just graduated from Laurens-Marathon High School. Her science teacher was a few days shy of summer vacation. Both were on the verge of a celebratory holiday weekend. But the late-spring setting sun brought tragedy to both Wednesday evening. Buena Vista County sheriff's deputies said sunlight blinded Kelsey Fredricks, 18, when the car she was driving hit and fatally injured her teacher, Alan Gene Petersen, who was riding his bicycle on Iowa Highway 10. Petersen "was her favorite teacher," said Krista Fredricks, Kelsey Fredricks' older sister. "She absolutely didn't see him until the accident." The Fredricks family expressed their deepest sympathies to the Petersen family Friday as scores in the northwestern Iowa communities grieved on the verge of Memorial Day weekend. "We've lost a critical member of our community, a member of our school family," Laurens-Marathon Superintendent Iner Joelson said. "Al was a great person with a passion for kids, a passion for teaching. He would show anyone who was walking by what he was working on in the classroom." The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, Buena Vista County Sheriff Gary Launderville said in a news release. Petersen was riding westbound when he was hit from behind by Fredricks' westbound car on Highway 10 about three miles east of Marathon. Petersen, 50, was finishing his 27th year of teaching at Laurens-Marathon. He taught chemistry, physics, biotechnology and biology. He played drums in a band and played Daddy Warbucks in the school production of "Annie." He made cameo appearances in other stage shows and often helped with lighting. "He was a remarkable person," Joelson said. "He once showed a physics class how it was possible to lie on a bed of nails by doing so himself and then explaining the physics behind it. He made a hovercraft out of a leaf blower. He grew trees on school property for distribution around the community." Petersen taught at Iowa State University during summers. He was training for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa when the accident occurred, Joelson said. Friday morning was the last day of school in the Laurens-Marathon district. The accident turned a day normally filled with exuberant release into one of sadness and grief. "Counselors and clergy have been here to help," Joelson said. "There has been a great outpouring of community support. It's a tragedy." Friends, family, counselors and community members also reached out to Fredricks "to help assure her that we believe this was an accident and not her fault." Petersen was born in Sheldon and grew up in George, where he graduated from high school in 1978. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Northern Iowa. He had two college-age sons. Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Laurens-Marathon High School with visitation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school. Related News

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