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Victor Peterson, developer, head of real estate firm ; Dec. 6, 1915 -- June 23, 2010

Victor L. Peterson, who developed major swaths of land in the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst and built one of the area's largest diversified real estate firms, died Wednesday in his Williamsville home. He was 94.

Mr. Peterson, who was known as "Vic," took the firm his father, Marvin John Peterson, started 80 years ago and turned it into a sprawling enterprise that builds homes and apartments, manages properties, and buys and sells commercial and residential real estate.

A native of Detroit, he learned the building trades from his father and earned a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He served four years in the Navy during World War II.

MJ Peterson Co. was formed in 1930 when Marvin John Peterson relocated to Buffalo from Detroit.

Victor Peterson joined the family business in 1946, and he soon steered the company toward building rental units, including one of the earliest projects, the Olde Town Village apartments on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda.

Other projects included Marvin Gardens and Parkview Estates in the Town of Tonawanda and the Willow Ridge subdivision off Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Town of Amherst. Mr. Peterson also developed properties in the Village of Kenmore and in North Buffalo.

He was a pioneer in developing federally assisted housing and was recognized with an Urban Land Institute Award for his efforts to revitalize housing in Buffalo.

For a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the company probably built 100 apartment units and single-family homes per year, according to Mr. Peterson's son, Victor L. Peterson Jr.

"He was really proud of all of them. I don't think he had any favorites," said the younger Peterson. "He really got a thrill out of being able to provide housing for all different kinds of people in Western New York."

Mr. Peterson served as chief executive officer until about 1988, when he turned day-to-day management over to his son. He continued to serve as chairman of the board until his death.

Mr. Peterson was inducted into the New York State Builders Hall of Fame in 2001. The National Association of Realtors designated him as a "Realtor emeritus" in 2000, and he received a lifetime achievement award in 2008 from the New York State Commercial Association of Realtors.

Mr. Peterson was known for his love of candid photography. He carried a point-and-shoot camera on his belt constantly to capture images of people visiting his office and often had the pictures developed and posted on the office walls.

"He would take pictures of everybody, whether they liked it or not," his son said.

In addition to his son, Mr. Peterson is survived by his wife of 69 years, the former Mary T. Powney; a daughter, Jeanne Orton; and a brother, Gordon.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church, 8445 Greiner Road, Clarence.


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