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Mr. Peter Eric Carlson, a resident of Panama City Beach, Florida and formerly of Ozark, Alabama, passed away peacefully Sunday, December 2, 2018, at his home. He was sixty-six years old.
A Mass of Christian Burial for Mr. Carlson will be held at 1:00 P.M. Friday, December 7, 2018, in St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church in Ozark with Reverend Frederick G. Boni officiating. Interment will follow in Woodlawn Memory Gardens with Military Honors, Holman Funeral Home and Cremation of Ozark directing. The family will receive friends at the funeral home in Ozark Thursday evening from 5:00 P.M. until 7:00 P.M.
Peter was born January 6, 1952 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He graduated from Carroll High School in Ozark, Alabama and was a disabled Veteran, having served in the United States Army. He excelled in competitive swimming, high board diving, baseball, football and basketball as a young man. Later in life he excelled in kindness and generosity. He never met a stranger. Peter put others first and always had a kind word or a laugh to share. He was an extraordinary man and all who knew him were inspired by his kind spirit. He was preceded in death by his father, Roy F. Carlson.
Survivors include his mother, Patricia Carlson; three brothers, Mike Carlson (Laura) of Brooklyn, New York, Jim Carlson (Alicia) of Los Angeles, California, and Gary Carlson of Ozark, Alabama; four sisters, Barbara Gorecki and KC Faulk both of Waverly Hall, Georgia, Janice Nolan (Mike) of Sneeds Ferry, North Carolina, Laura McCaghren (Don) of Hamilton, Georgia. Many nieces, nephews, and cousins also survive.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to Ozark-Dale Humane Society, P. O. Box 2502, Ozark, Alabama 36361.
Eulogy for Peter Eric Carlson
at St. John Catholic Church, Ozark
December 7, 2018
We miss you, Pete! –Mike, January 27, 2019]
Hi, everyone, I’m Mike, one of Pete’s three brothers. He also has four sisters. Thank you all very much for coming to this service and sharing this day with us.
Let me begin with some additional thank you’s (please forgive errors, omissions, and “others”!).
Thank You, Good Lord, for allowing Pete to be with us for 66 years and for taking Pete to Heaven.
Thank you, everyone who has provided emotional, and other, support and comfort to Mom, Gary, and the rest of our family.
Thank you, Jim and Chelsea, for creating the beautiful video keepsake of Pete.
Thank you, Barbara Pattberg, Annette Heller, Inez Hoar, and the St. John’s Women’s Club for the delicious and plentiful food.
Thank you, Howard and Lydia Swain, Jerry Hoar, Paula Jackson, and others for the beautiful music at today’s service.
Thank you, relatives and friends who came from near and far to be with us.
Thank you, Scott, Frank, and others for the beautiful flowers.
Thank you, Scott and Melanie, for banging on Pete’s door Sunday and then calling the police when Pete didn’t answer.
Thank you, Father Fred Boni, for orchestrating this funeral service.
Thank you, Adrian and all the staff at Holman Funeral Home for managing the visitation, the burial service, and Pete’s web page.
Thank you, all the ladies who prepared and/or provided the delicious and plentiful food for this afternoon’s gathering at Mom’s house.
Thank you, pallbearers Don McCaghren and Scott Feenstra, Mike Nolan and Mike Auxier, and Frank Amodeo and Gary Carlson.
Thank you, Deacon “Pat” Pattberg and Hank Shaw, for assisting Father in today’s service commemorating Pete.
Thank you, the 1-145 Honor Detachment from Ft. Rucker, for playing Taps and presenting the U.S. flag to Mom at Woodlawn Memorial cemetery later today.
Thank you, everyone at this church who has been Mom’s friend and/or fellow worshipper over these many years. Our whole family, including Dad, whom Mom converted, used to come here for Sunday mass many years ago. In fact, my brother Jimmy and I were altar boys here.
Now, may I say, you people in the balcony sound great! I love your music. If you haven’t created your own YouTube channel, you should think about it.
Believe me, Pete would be amazed to see all of you here. He never expected anyone to be at his funeral other than family.
As an adult, Pete suffered with schizophrenia, which is a disabling brain disease.
But, Pete was a totally normal, happy go lucky kid through high school. He was a natural athlete, and excelled at swimming, diving, football, and baseball.
Around 18, the disease started taking over. At 20, he was medically discharged from the Army. He joined a fundamentalist religious group, which sent him to Haiti to preach the Good News.
In 1979, Mom and Dad and Gary managed to situate Pete in our small duplex in Panama City Beach. Pete lived there till Sunday, with occasional years-long attempts to live elsewhere: e.g., California with Laura and Jimmy, New Mexico with Jan and Mike, and Georgia with KC and Larry.
Although schizophrenic, Pete was at least able to take care of himself. He could drive his car, go shopping, and make and keep doctor appointments.
As he got older, he ate less and less. His weight gradually went from 200 to 150. He usually ate only one meal a day. And that was a frozen TV dinner. His favorites were Hungry-Man Salisbury Steak and Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken & Rice. And various chocolates. Occasionally, just to make conversation during our frequent phone calls, Pete would ask me what I had had for breakfast, and I would tell him that I’d had the usual—a carrot, an apple, and a sandwich with cheese, eggplant, tomato, and red onion. Pete would mention that he hadn’t eaten fresh produce in ten or twenty years, and I would say, “That’s okay—more for me.” I tried to get Pete to take multivitamin/mineral pills. He tried them for a month, and then quit. I asked why, and he said, “Because I don’t feel any better.” Like many people, he hated taking pills. I did get him to make Pedialyte part of his daily routine. It didn’t make him feel any better, but at least he liked the taste of it.
For most of his life, Pete really enjoyed Marlboro Reds, two to three packs per day. He also enjoyed his Bud lite beer. He would say the cigarettes and the beer made him feel a little better. He occasionally took months-long breaks from beer, but he never went a day in his life without his Marlboros, each one of which he inhaled right down to the filter.
Years ago, I told Pete really enjoyed that when he died, we were going to put a six-pack of Bud Lite and a carton of Marlboro Reds in his coffin. He said, “Don’t forget my lighter!”
It took Pete at least an hour to get going in the morning. He would start every day with three or four cups of coffee containing lots of milk and sugar. He also drank ice water with his “breakfast” of coffee and cigarettes. He almost always woke at dawn, or earlier. He hardly ever got eight hours of sleep. Even when he did, he said he felt like he was half-awake throughout his “sleep.” Even though Pete could do daily chores and errands, even routine things were not easy. For example, he couldn’t take a Whole Shower. He took Half Showers. Top half one day, bottom half the next day. He called them his Northern Shower and his Southern Shower.
When his meds were working, Pete felt okay—never great, but okay. He smiled or laughed about this or that, and he could carry on intelligent and interesting conversations, although he often remarked to me that he wished he had more to say during a conversation.
Pete did try his best to keep busy, knowing that busyness sometimes helped quiet the voices. But it was difficult for him to focus on anything at length. Lately he had taken up yoga, at Frankie’s suggestion. He enjoyed mystery novels. He’d read a couple of pages, sometimes even a chapter or two, a day. His other pleasure was Scratchers. He liked Scratchers better than Powerball or MegaMillions, although he never won much at any of them. “The good thing about Scratchers,” he said, “is you find out if you’ve won immediately. You don’t have to wait till the drawing day.”
I don’t know how many times I told Pete about the new research that was being done in schizophrenia. I told him often that if he lived long enough, they might discover a cure. He told me often that he didn’t want to live that long.
Next month he was going to get a smartphone and learn how to visit internet sites like reddit and YouTube. He was also going to start trying CBD oil, the new miracle drug that supposedly treats everything, including physical pain, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia. He sounded hopeful that maybe his life was going to be a little better in 2019.
Of course, Pete’s never going to see 2019. Last Sunday, worried about Pete not returning phone calls for the previous four days, Barb called Scott and Melanie, Pete’s friends who live only blocks away. They drove over to Pete’s, saw his car outside, and knocked hard and yelled loudly at his door. When he didn’t answer, they called the police. The police broke through the back door and found Pete in bed, dead of an apparent heart attack. He was last seen Friday afternoon emptying trash outside; the police arrived Sunday afternoon.
That’s it. If not for schizophrenia, Pete might have finished his Army stint, gotten a good job, gotten married, had kids and grandkids. He would have experienced good times and bad times, like most of us. But that didn’t happen. What did happen, Pete has joined Dad in heaven and his troubled life on Earth is over.
Let me finish with a final remark from one of Pete’s letters.
Quote: Family and friends...I couldn’t have lived this long without their help.
He wrote those words in 2007, which means that family and friends helped Pete live with us for these last eleven years. God bless you all for that!
Here are some thoughts about Pete from his other siblings:
Barb: Years ago, Joe and I went to PC to visit Pete. We decided to go out to a bar one night. We were drinking and listening to the music when Pete just got up and started dancing. If you remember Elaine on Seinfeld and her herky-jerky dancing, Pete’s style was even worse! Really strange. Everyone in the bar was just staring and open-mouthed. When the music stopped, Pete sat down—with a Cheshire cat smile on his face. Yeah, Pete was crazy, alright. Like a fox. He knew what he was doing. We all had a good laugh at his antics. Love you, Pete.
Jan: Pete was always a considerate guy. He gave me his ratty ole primer-only painted '65 ragtop convertible stick-shift Mustang when he decided to go into the Army. Pete was visiting us in La Luz, NM (early 1980s) and decided we didn't need Jehovah’s Witnesses spreading their words to us so he answered the door in his underwear! They told him the worst they’d run into was an attack goose! Pete loved funny jokes. But if you told him one that he didn't think was funny, he’d look up at you and tell ya, “It wasn’t funny and don’t tell me any more!”, then go back to sucking on his cigarette. Pete used to stack his coins up in a particular order on the dresser. I told Mom, like Pete didn’t have enough issues, but autistic people have a lot of his mannerisms. Pete rode my horse Flash when Pete came out to visit us in Clovis, NM. Flash got a wild hair and started bucking. (Flash didn’t buck like a rodeo bronc!) Pete came flying off (i.e., jumped!) and just laid face down in the dirt. I was on the other side of the arena stunned—thinking, “I just killed my brother!” As I was running toward him, he started getting up and told me that my horse needed to go to the glue factory! Another visit from Pete in Mesa, AZ was in 1976 (he was going anywhere the wind took him). I woke up one night to find him standing in front of my stove with all the gas burners on—lost in his own world. We spoke about the flame and then he went back to bed. I took the knobs off the stove and hid all the knives! I was scared—not of him, but for him. Rest in peace, brother—you are missed!
KC: One of my favorite memories of Pete happened just days before he passed away. Pete was the most giving, caring person I knew. He really would give you the shirt off his back. Pete was staying at Gary’s house for our family’s Thanksgiving get-together. Mom lives next door and noticed Pete in Gary’s front yard talking with an older man carrying a rake and garbage bag. Mom didn’t think much about it. After Pete passed away later that week, Mom saw the same man with the rake and garbage bag. He came up to her and asked if Pete was there. She told him Pete had passed away and asked how he knew Pete. He replied that Pete had hired him to rake Gary’s yard, but there were no leaves in the yard to rake. Pete paid him anyway. That was Pete—always willing to help strangers. Pete just didn’t want that man to go home empty-handed. My brother is now at rest beside Dad and they have both been welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. God rest your souls.
Laura: Pete had a great sense of humor and could really see the humor in day-to-day life. Although he struggled daily with his mental illness, he still managed to appreciate the small things like taking an ice-cold Coca-Cola to the mailman every day during the hot summer, leaving generous tips for his waitresses and really enjoying the company of others! He loved to give—always going above the limit when we set limits, always giving more than what was agreed up—but that was Pete. He was such a very kind and generous guy. On the flip side, we also called him a “Diva” because if he had something he needed your help with, he would make sure it rose to the top of your priority list! I loved it when he did this. I think about Pete often and always will; he was very real and very wise. He taught me so much about life and enlightened me many times just in general conversations. He was the best big brother anyone could ever ask for. He is missed so much!
Jimmy: Pete helped me with many things in my life, from sharing what little money he had to embracing living with me in different locations. Here are a few simple, but meaningful things he did for me. He helped me keep my motorbikes running with his creative solutions by circumventing buying new parts and just using raw materials and modifying things to get the job done. For example, fixing my gear shifter with pull sticks made of wood and wires and rerouting the whole system to make it work, and creating a spear gun with just a 2x4 and strong rubber bands and a door hinge for a trigger so we could try to catch some fish (fortunately our aim wasn’t that good). And when we had no money for tubes and tires on the motor scooter, he just filled the old tires with rags and it worked. He was an innovative genius. And later, even as his disability affected him, he would always call every now and then to check up on us to see if we were well, saying “Jiimmm” (drawn out), “are you and Alicia ok?” We really miss those calls, and we really miss you, Peter; stay blessed in Heaven.
Gary: My brother Pete, my hero. I say this with reason and conviction. Besides knowing how Pete fought and conquered his illness daily—something which none of us can even imagine the amount of mental strength required for that battle—Pete literally came to our rescue in the bay off the Navy Base in Panama City Beach, Fl. I had gone down to visit him for his birthday in early January one year. The weather was nice, sunny, and a pleasant temperature for January. So, we decided to take a catamaran out into the bay and do a little sailing. Mind you, the weather was pleasant, but the water temperature was in the low 60s—doesn’t sound too bad until you’re in it! We went to the Navy base to rent the cat. I knew just enough to be dangerous. I asked the sailor manning the boat rentals if the pontoons on the cat had been emptied. He assured me that they had been. Pete and I paid and off we went. It was fun, exhilarating, brisk, and warm at the same time. We went out into the bay, maybe 500-plus yards and made our first full 90-degree turn. All that water that the boatswain assured me had been emptied, rushed to the back of the pontoons, and the cat stood up on end and began slipping into the deep. We could only hold on. Once we were in the water, knowing we were in danger, I told Pete we had to get the cat righted. The only way to do that was for one of us to dive down to the mast and release the sail so we could bring the sailboat back up onto the ocean’s surface. Without hesitation, Pete dove and was back up in less than 60 seconds. Pete did not know that much about sailing, but operating under pressure seemed to be nothing to him. Once he surfaced and told me he had released the sail, we were able to right the cat and once again get aboard the vessel. At that time, the success of what Pete had done did not register with me. Had we stayed in the water longer, would we have been able to dive and right the boat? Would we have started losing body heat before we understood how life-threatening that situation was? There was no one else boating in the bay that day. We could’ve been goners. Pete could’ve gotten wrapped in lines under the water and drowned. I would not have known he was in trouble until it would have been too late. He literally saved both of our lives! But, that physical battle was nothing compared to his daily battle; this man was strong—he battled schizophrenia daily and won. This, more than his life-saving boating rescue, displays the internal power of my brother, my hero, Pete.