RPS 205 loses two top stars from years past

Dick Johnson (left) and Joel Peterson

The Rockford School District sadly lost two of its top former athletes this past week.

Joel Peterson, who was a collegiate Division I football and track athlete from East, died Saturday at the age of 80 in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Dick Johnson, a 1962 Auburn graduate who finished fifth in the state in tennis as a senior, died Monday morning at the age of 74 in St. Louis.

Peterson was an honorable mention all-Big 8 tackle for the E-Rabs football team in the fall of 1954 and then second team all-conference in 1955. In track, Peterson was the rare blend of power and speed. He won four Big 8 track titles, two in the discus, one in the shot put and one as a member of the 880-yard relay team.

Peterson, who also played basketball at East, ended up lettering in both track and football at Wisconsin, although his career there was cut short by knee injuries.

Peterson earned a degree in landscape architecture and went to work for the Madison, Wisconsin, Planning Department, working his way up to economic development manager.

Although there are a handful of NIC-10 tennis players who compiled a record better than Johnson at Auburn, West’s Dan Wikse won the IHSA state title in 1965, there are none who can match his decades of accomplishments.

Johnson served as head tennis pro at clubs for more than 40 years. He won more than 40 age group national titles. He was the No. 1 ranked 70-year-old tennis player in the world in 2015.

Posted on 04.10.19