The family of Peter Waldron will maintain this website to celebrate Peter's life and work. Below is the obituary, including -- at the very end -- the July 13-14 schedule and other details about arrangements and bequests.
We hope everyone who knew Peter will consider joining us to mourn his passing and to celebrate his life. Join the Remembering Peter Waldron Facebook group to stay connected. A shorter version of this obituary will be published in the Eagle-Tribune, our local newspaper.
Please feel free to share this sad news and we request that you link to the published obituary, either here or at the funeral home website, dcsfuneralhome.com, so that everyone will have the details about arrangements.
Calls, voice mails, text messages, emails, and letters are all very much appreciated, and please understand we will respond but not in the near future. Our hearts are overflowing with sorrow at our loss, and also enormous gratitude for the gift of Peter's life, and the tremendous support we have received. We are heads down taking care of all the things one needs to take care of in these situations. Thank you for your understanding.
With all that said, here is the main thing we hope you'll read. It's long. It could have been twice as long. Hope it brings you some comfort to know how much Peter loved his work, his students, the community organizations he participated in, his family and many friends. No doubt if you are reading this, Peter loved you and from his celestial, eternal home is no doubt with all of us right now.
Onward! Keep the party going.
Peter Wood Waldron, 69, Lover of Life and the Arts
(1953 - 2023)
Peter Waldron of Haverhill, Massachusetts was a scenic designer, arts center manager, teacher, husband, and father who loved life, loved the arts, and loved showing people a good time. The twinkle in his eye, his infectious chuckle, his incisive, playful wit, and his forward-looking, positive attitude will be sorely missed by family, friends, colleagues, and all whose lives he touched.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Peter Wood Waldron was the oldest child of Martin O. Waldron Jr., a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, and Ann Wood Waldron, a journalist and author. With his three younger siblings Peter grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and Houston, Texas, as the family relocated in support of Martin's journalism career.
Peter's love of theatre, music, and the arts became evident at an early age. Throughout his youth, Peter participated in school plays as well as community theater productions. He recalled helping to build scenery for a production where the technical crew was behind schedule, and the set was not going to be ready for dress rehearsal. In this dire situation, Peter wanted to skip school in order to help finish building the set -- and his mother let him! He could hardly believe it. That's when he realized how completely his mother supported his love of the arts, and he never forgot this.
As a high school student Peter was privileged and fortunate to serve as an intern at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. This was his first experience living in New England -- the region he would return to years later to pursue his professional career, make his home, and raise his family.
Although he was a talented actor -- in a high school production of Dracula, he played Van Helsing, the vampire slayer -- Peter found himself drawn to scenic, lighting, and costume design, and all the related arts that comprise technical theater. Additionally, Peter displayed a talent for budgeting, planning, coordinating, communicating, decision-making -- whether organizing a theater performance, or just throwing a great party.
Peter's senior year at Houston's Lamar High School was indeed memorable, and presaged a talent for showmanship. Peter and a band of friends pushed a counter-culture agenda, and Peter was elected president of the senior class, to the chagrin of every administrator. May it be known that irreverent playfulness either marred or enhanced that year's graduation ceremony.
Peter enrolled as a freshman at Antioch College, a small private liberal arts college in Ohio, known for its flexible curriculum, its co-op program, and its commitment to diversity, inclusion and social justice. While Peter very much enjoyed Antioch for the chance to socialize with peers from different regions and backgrounds, within a few weeks he found himself feeling overwhelmed and out of place. After some reflection, and following a few madcap adventures, Peter recognized that he was not yet ready for college.
He moved back home to Houston, and spent a year working as a copy boy at the Houston Chronicle while getting involved with and enjoying the arts and music scene in Houston.
Peter would later describe this "gap year" as one of the most meaningful times in his life. The child of two journalists, and now working in the newsroom of a major newspaper, Peter could observe and truly appreciate his parents' careers; for the rest of his life Peter took great pride in the achievements of journalist friends and family members, and he remained a lifelong newspaper reader, subscriber, and supporter of independent news media and the free press.
Balancing work and fun, taking responsibility for showing up on time and being ready to help, prepared Peter not only for college but for the adult life ahead of him. Punctuality was a big part of what Peter learned during his gap year and practiced forever after.
Following his gap year, Peter enrolled in The University of Texas at Austin, and majored in technical theater. He lived in the West Campus neighborhood (College House, the Blue House), and worked as a stage manager at Austin's famed Paramount Theatre.
At the Paramount, Peter fully embraced the hard work and the exuberant joy of bringing live musical performances to audiences, night after night after night. During those early and mid-1970's years, several up-and-coming performers graced the Paramount stage who went on to become music legends.
At UT, Peter immersed himself in the dramatic arts, and learned to take on a variety of roles -- acting, directing writing, designing scenery, lighting, and costumes, bulding and striking sets, and stage managing. The drama curriculum at UT included a solid foundation in the history of theater; students were exposed to different schools of thought about how to approach the theoretical and structural elements of plays as literary works.
Best of all, the drama program at UT was a nonstop marathon of theatrical productions -- with the joy of being a part of the little band that comes together to make the show happen, and then after the last performance stays up late together to tear apart and throw in the dumpster the very beautiful set you all spent such time and care to build just a few short days ago. It was this ephemeral nature of theater, the magic of being there together for THAT moment, that turned Peter on. The absolute wonder of live performance was something Peter never tired of, and never took for granted.
After graduating from UT Austin with a B.F.A. degree in theater design and production, Peter spent the early '80's in the Pacific Northwest, serving as resident designer at The Evergreen State College and at Reed College. He was a founding member of Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Oregon, and over the years he helped to create, support, and expand a range of non-profit arts organizations, some of which continue to flourish.
Peter very much enjoyed living in the Pacific Northwest. He bought a boat, and loved sailing in Puget Sound. But he knew that a career in academic theater would require going back to school for a master's degree.
Following a cross-country road trip that included several weeks camping in Mexico, Peter moved to New York City to pursue graduate studies in the Performing Arts Institue of New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.
During his NYU years Peter worked on scenery, lighting and props for television commercials, for trade shows, and for a theatrical lighting rental company. He was able to attend shows on and off Broadway, and often his mother, Ann, now widowed and living in New Jersey, would take the train to Manhattan to join him for an afternoon of museum-going or an evening of theater. Somehow Peter also found time to work as a bartender at a Vietnamese restaurant, and as a short order cook at another restaurant. The punctuality and time management skills he had honed during his gap year from college, became the secret to his success handling all the hubbub and stress of life as a student and theater professional in New York City. The late, great, lamented Chumleys was a favorite watering hole, a place to meet a friend or make small talk with strangers. On a sunny summer day Peter was known to take the A train all the way to the Far Rockaways, get off at Rockaway Beach for a quick swim in the ocean, then ride the subway home to Lower Manhattan. In short, Peter loved living in New York City!
But then, after three phenomenal years in the Big Apple, having completed his Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degree in Scenery and Lighting Design, Peter decided it was time to settle down, get married, and establish a home and family. And unfortunately, this meant leaving New York City. (Among the possessions Peter treasured is a t-shirt imprinted with the words, “Don't worry, New York, I'll be back!”)
Peter married then fiancee Catherine Heimsath following a whirlwind courtship (he proposed on the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco; they danced beneath a starry sky at the Heimsath farm in Fayetteville, Texas, to the strains of Ernest Tubb's "Waltz Across Texas"). The couple initially settled in Austin, Texas, but soon an opportunity to join the faculty of Bradford College led the newlyweds to Haverhill, Massachusetts where they continued to reside for all of their thirty-seven year marriage.
During his Bradford College years, Peter served as Chair of the college's Creative Arts Program, chaired the City of Haverhill's arts commission (later renamed the cultural council), and co-founded the Pentucket Arts Center, a nonprofit dedicated to arts education, that remained active from 1996 until 2014.
In 1997 Peter was voted Professor of the Year by the Bradford College student body, and was selected to be that year's commencement speaker. He began his remarks by quoting his favorite passage from scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a, about the way of love.
Peter also served on the board of Winnekenni Castle, and volunteered for many years at Community Meals, serving free, freshly cooked meals to over one hundred needy people each week in the Haverhill Citizens Center. Peter served as technical director and adjunct professor at Merrimack College and earned a Master's Degree in Arts Administration from Goucher College. He was an active member of the Haverhill Rotary Club for several years.
In addition to managing academic arts centers and teaching classes in technical theater, arts administration, and the history of theater, Peter continued to work as a designer of scenery and lighting, and to provide technical theater expertise, to a wide range of professional and community theater organizations.
In the 1990's he served as Technical Director for River Arts, a summer theater company in the Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock, New York. Peter designed lighting for the American premiere of Edward Albee's play, "Three Tall Women," which went on to Broadway.
One summer, Peter's wife Catherine was able to join him in Woodstock, working as River Arts box office manager and helping to implement a new software program to manage ticket sales. This role led Catherine to re-focus her career on software and computer technology. Also at River Arts, Peter and Catherine befriended a group of visiting actors from the Soviet Union; Peter's high school study of the Russian language turned out to come in handy. This led Peter to become involved in several other projects bringing Soviet students and performing artists to New England.
As a freelancer Peter designed sets for the Pentucket Players, Burlington High School, Watertown Children's Theatre, the Boston Conservatory and other community and professional theaters in the Boston area. His scenery for “I Hate Hamlet” at StageWest in Springfield, Massachusetts won a best design award.
In recent years Peter was overjoyed to have the chance to manage the newly renovated Academic Arts Center at Middlesex Community College in downtown Lowell, at 240 Central Street. The facility is a state-of-the-art demonstration of what is possible in the re-use and renovation of a historic building to provide the latest performance art technology and spaces for students to learn and grow, whether preparing for careers in the arts, gaining new appreciation for the arts, or simply gaining the transferable skills that make arts education a valuable preparation for any career or vocation. In addition to managing the Academic Arts Center, Peter taught technical theater classes at Middlesex Community College and also at Endicott College.
Of all the titles and roles Peter took on, his proudest by far was the title, "Papa." Catherine and Peter adopted their two sons, Eric and Ruben, when they were school age. The years of child-rearing were filled with new discoveries, new challenges, and many treasured memories: family vacations in Maine and New Hampshire, Christmas trips to Texas and Mexico, and even the experience of Jazzfest in New Orleans -- everything was a new adventure.
Beginning in 2013, Peter enjoyed ten seasons with Theatre Workshop of Nantucket, a professional non-profit theatre established in 1956. TWN is "the place where Nantucket meets Broadway." Collaborating with professionals, many of whom lived and worked in New York, Peter felt he had come full circle. Remembering visits to Rockaway Beach in his New York City years, now Peter could drive or ride The Wave bus to any of numerous amazing beaches, to swim, sunbathe, or just enjoy relaxing at the shore and watching the ocean.
As the years went by, younger son Ruben became more and more skilled in carpentry, and became his Papa's capable assistant, working to build scenery in Peter's shop, and applying his phenomenal physical strength and creativity to set building and striking, absorbing the spirit of teamwork and positive attitude to help make things work. Ruben would spend days helping Peter on Nantucket, then running mile after mile all around the island, to stay in condition for cross country, and joining Peter at the beach for glorious swimming in the icy ocean.
Ruben died in 2017, a devastating loss for Peter and the entire family.
In the years since, Peter threw himself into his work, if anything at a faster pace and with a heavier load of commitments than ever before. Back in the 1990's Peter had been diagnosed with a rare heart condition that can be managed but not cured; he followed his doctors' orders and adopted a healthier lifestyle, but from time to time a health crisis would occur. Now the doctors were saying to take it easy, and Peter tried. He really, really tried to slow down, to take good care of himself. But as for taking it easy? There was something about Peter and work -- he absolutely loved his work.
Generous in applying his professional skills, Peter transformed family occasions into events. To celebrate his 40th birthday, he hired a mariachi band to play in the backyard; for his fiftieth birthday, he rented the local AmVets hall, brought in a nationally known punk-polka band, and express shipped barbeque from Texas. On the eve of his nephew Ben’s 2019 wedding, on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Peter created an outdoor psychedelic light show at the rehearsal dinner, in honor of the famed festival. As Peter would say, “Yahoo!”
Peter completed the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. When his mother was still alive, he would call her every day and they would compare their crossword puzzle achievements. In recent years he added Wordle and the New York Times spelling bee to his daily routine, in collaboration with his wife, Catherine.
For many years Peter would travel with his mother to Europe in late summer or early fall; and then would travel with his family to Mexico at Christmastime,
He attended Jazzfest almost every year for 50 years, only missing for health reasons. During the covid-19 pandemic he listened to Jazzfest online.
Peter also enjoyed painting en plein air, visiting museums, and stopping to read historical markers along the roadside, a habit instilled by his mother.
Peter loved to cook; he was especially versatile preparing food for large numbers of people. Peter loved parades, processions, and outdoor live music. He loved tabasco on pretty much any kind of food.
He loved sing-alongs and singing ALL the verses. His favorite movie was Citizen Kane. his favorite technology company was Apple. His favorite dessert was key lime pie. He loved a cold beer on a hot summer day, and after he gave up alcoholic beverages, his standard drink was Red Zinger Peppermint iced tea on the rocks.
Peter loved dancing with his wife to country music, western swing, waltz, or polka music. His favorite band was the Grateful Dead, with Asleep at the Wheel coming in a close second.
His favorite opera was Aida.
Peter loved getting together with his siblings and their families; he enjoyed reunions with old friends and also very much loved making new friends.
Pretty much wherever he went, Peter would strike up casual conversations with people, and share a joke or simply express exuberance. "Yahoo!" was a signature response. Any whining would be met with "Coulda, woulda, shoulda," and procrastination with, "Action, Jackson!"
And when his phone rang Peter often answered with the greeting, "Start talking!" Conversations would conclude with, "Onward!"
And to celebrate any small win or positive outcome, Peter would throw up his hands and exclaim, "Thank you, Sweet Jesus!"
In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 4, Peter died suddenly and peacefully in his sleep, of natural causes, at home with his family in Haverhill, Massachusetts, after decades living a full and joyful life while successfully managing his serious health issues.
One of Peter's friends, upon hearing the news, described a vision of Peter dancing and laughing, leading a celestial parade through the pearly gates, with a New Orleans jazz band playing, "When the Saints Go Marching In." Truly that must be what Peter is doing now, proclaiming "Onward!" and welcoming all to enjoy the party that never ends.
Peter is survived by his wife, Catherine Heimsath Waldron, their son, Eric Santa; one sister, Lolly O'Brien (and her husband, Richard O'Brien) of Trenton, New Jersey; two brothers -- Tommy Waldron (and his wife Stephanie Shapiro) of Baltimore, Maryland; and Martin aka "Boojie" Waldron (and his wife Roxane Shelley Waldron) of Olympia, Washington; mother-in-law Maryann Heimsath of Fayetteville, Texas; as well as a multitude of extended family, dear friends, amazing students and mentees, and treasured professional colleagues and associates. Peter was predeceased by his parents, Ann and Martin Waldron; by his younger son, Ruben Santa-Waldron; and by his father-in-law, Clovis Heimsath.
Calling hours will be on Thursday, July 13 from 4 to 7 pm at Dole, Childs & Shaw Funeral Home, 148 Main Street, in Haverhill. The funeral will be at All Saints Parish, 120 Bellevue Ave, also in Haverhill, on Friday, July 14 at 10 a.m., to be followed by burial in Saint James Cemetery, Primrose Street, Haverhill. (Peter will be buried with son Ruben, in a grave located in Section 4a, on the side near Section 6. Enter the main entrance of the cemetery and drive straight, all the way to the back, and you'll be right there.) Everyone who knew and loved Peter is encouraged to attend the funeral Mass and burial, and will be invited to join the family afterwards at a luncheon reception to share food, drink, and stories, to celebrate Peter's life. Peter's family will continue to maintain his website, PeterWoodWaldron.com, to offer additional ways to share memories and remain connected.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests that bequests be made in Peter's memory to Saint Ann's Home, attn: Development Office, 100A Haverhill Street, Methuen, MA 01844, or online at st.annshome.org. All donations in honor of Peter Waldron will support cultural enrichment and arts education materials and programs. Alternatively, please consider donations of your time, talent, and treasure to your local nonprofit arts organization. And Peter's memory is always honored when you spring for the check, tip the waitstaff generously, or buy a round of coffee, tea, or something stronger for whatever gathering you find yourself in.
Messages of condolence may be sent to:Family of Peter Waldron
23 Magnolia Avenue
Haverhill, MA 01830
CatherineHeimsathWaldron @ gmail.com
Let's keep the party going.