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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

Adept wheelchair athlete excelled in many sports

Edward Joseph Petersen, Jr., a former Easter Seals poster child, wheelchair athlete, and avid sports fan, died Thursday in Toledo Hospital. He was 24.

Mr. Petersen, who had cerebral palsy and hemophilia almost all his life, died of possible complications of pneumonia and congestive heart failure, his mother, Kathy Petersen, said.

Mr. Petersen was the poster child for the Easter Seals Society of Northwestern Ohio from 1985 to 1987.

From his wheelchair, he participated in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field events through the Ability Center of Greater Toledo.

The center's football team, the Toledo Crash, played the University of Toledo Rockets each of the last few years. The Rockets, who also played in wheelchairs for these events, beat them for the first time last year - in overtime, his father, Edward Petersen, said.

Mr. Petersen played with the team since its inception four or five years ago, Mrs. Petersen said.

He was also a counselor and former camper at the ability center's day camp, "Camp Cricket."

"I feel like our center has lost one of our best customers," Jill Caruso, an assisted-living specialist at the center, said.

"I went to a bowling thing with him, and he was laughing because he was beating me," Ms. Caruso recalled. "I told him, `One of these days I'm going to beat you,' and I never beat him. I tried, but I couldn't."

Mr. Petersen, born in Toledo on Oct. 18, 1980, graduated from Rogers High School in 2000.

When he wasn't playing sports, he was "your typical 24-year-old," his mother said.

"He would go to bars with his guy friends and sister," she said. "We never treated him differently. Nothing mentally was ever affected."

He was a big Ohio State University football fan.

Mr. Petersen went to at least two OSU games every fall with his father. In the last couple years, he went to spring games as well, Mrs. Petersen said.

She said people admired her family for taking him to OSU games, but "for us he was no different."

When football wasn't in season, Mr. Petersen supported the Detroit Tigers. He was watching the Detroit-San Diego Padres game in his hospital room when he died, she said.

His mother said his smile was "contagious."

"Everyone commented on his smile and how many lives he touched," she said.

In 1991, he was a model for Target.

His casket will have OSU logos at the foot and inside the lid. His grave marker at the cemetery will memorialize his passion. It's been inscribed with "Go Bucks" and a big letter "O," Mrs. Petersen said.

Surviving are his parents, Kathy and Edward Petersen; sisters, Dawn and Amy Petersen, and grandparents, Tex and Lou Crider.

Visitation will begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow in the Coyle Funeral Home. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church.

The family suggests tributes to the Ability Center of Greater Toledo or the Hemophilia Center of Northwest Ohio.



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