Brandon Peterson: A Tribute by Deanna Rust
The world lost a little bit of magic in the early hours of Tuesday, December 29, 2020. Brandon Peterson, a local firefighter with Lancaster Fire Department, passed away in Orlando, FL, after complications from his battle with lung cancer. Brandon and his family were given the opportunity to travel to Disney World on December 18, through a local organization called Michael’s Memories. They planned to return on December 24, but Brandon experienced sudden trouble breathing and was unable to get onto the flight.
He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, and his father, Eric Peterson, remained with him. Brandon’s wife, Allison, his daughters, Avery (5) and Kayla (1) traveled back to Texas with Brandon’s mom, Leann. Allison and Leann returned to Orlando to be with Brandon on Christmas Day, and Brandon was so incredibly thankful to Southwest Airlines and those who made it possible for them to do so. His daughters were able to see him on December 28, just hours before he passed away.
Brandon himself wrote in his Facebook group, called “Brandon Peterson’s Fight” that the hospital actually cleared out a waiting room, sanitized it, and allowed his family to have some private time together. They even got some Disney gifts for him to give his girls, since they hadn’t been able to spend Christmas together. On December 29, Eric Peterson announced that Brandon had passed away suddenly in the early hours of the morning.
A Passion For Life
While Brandon’s battle with cancer has brought thousands of people together online, I had the honor of knowing Brandon personally, and I can tell you that he was so much more than his diagnosis. Brandon was known as “Bird” by his friends, and he never met a stranger. In fact, Brandon would often watch for celebrities at the airport, or find himself meeting important public figures at special events across the U.S.
A favorite of his was meeting George W. Bush. In fact, he met 5 Presidents in his lifetime. He met Hillary Swank and got her to sign a pair of boxing gloves for him. He met Brad Paisley, Justin Bieber, Matthew McConaughey, Steven Tyler, Dr. Ben Carson, Jack Black, several of the actors from Star Wars, and so many more. And he had a story to tell about each one—who was there with him, who took the photo, a funny story they shared.
Brandon also loved to collect memorabilia. He had an extensive sports memorabilia collection, especially Texas Rangers items. You could find him at Rangers stadium any chance he could get, and he got to watch the Dodgers and Braves play in the National League Championship Series at the new stadium this past October. He loved meeting players and getting their autographs, and he knew all kinds of facts about players and teams.
His Love For All Things Disney
If Brandon had a motto, it would likely be God-Family-Disney. He loved anything Disney. Disneyland, Disney World, Disney on Ice…he loved them all. They had an annual pass to Disney World, and he traveled to Florida as often as he could. He and his wife, Allison, were able to enjoy several trips by themselves, but Brandon was the best “girl dad.” He could chat up a Disney character (even the ones who don’t talk!) and pose with princesses, but he also taught his daughters about Star Wars. He loved riding the Hollywood Tower of Terror and Rise of the Resistance with Avery, who loves Halloween and all things scary. They especially loved their annual fall trip to Disney World to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!
Brandon and Allison announced their pregnancy with Kayla with a picture of Avery and a Mickey Mouse hat at Disneyland. Of course, Brandon’s love of memorabilia carried over to their love of all things Disney, and he had started collecting unique pieces of memorabilia, like signs that were used on Main Street and books signed by Walt Disney himself. Disney made Brandon happy, and so it was perfect that the last place he got to go was his favorite of them all.
Faith, Dedication & Service
Brandon’s faith and dedication to his friends and family were something to be admired. He wanted to help everyone. It didn’t matter what else was going on in his life, he took every opportunity to help others. He could be found passing out candy at the annual church Fall Festival (dressed as Sleepy the Dwarf, of course!). He drew incredible pictures of Disney characters for his girls, and cherished his marriage of 9 years to Allison. Brandon loved making people laugh and pulling pranks. He would spend hours setting up pranks at the fire station, then set up a camera to watch people’s reactions.
You could find him wearing the annual silly family Christmas shirt with no shame. He attended the Mansfield Toys for Tots event to support the cause and watch kids from church perform with their schools. Brandon enjoyed time with friends playing Top Golf, traveling, and doing escape rooms. He was constantly supporting other firefighters in their battles against cancer and other illnesses. The son of a fireman, he spent 10 years giving everything he had of himself to help the community.
Heaven Gained A Special Angel
In the past week, I’ve found myself thinking that life just isn’t fair sometimes. I think God must have needed Brandon for a job that only he could do. Maybe he needed someone who could greet people as they arrived in Heaven, or maybe he needed someone who could make people laugh with pranks and stories. Maybe they needed an artist to draw the sunsets we see down here in Texas. Or maybe they just needed a helper. Brandon and Allison have a little girl in Heaven, and I can’t help but picture her waiting for her Daddy at Heaven’s Gate. I imagine she was flanked by some of his favorites, like Walt Disney and Robin Williams. And I bet he was invited to watch a fantastic baseball game, with legends like Babe, Yogi, Reggie, Mickey, and Shoeless Joe playing in the best stadium he’s ever seen.
Brandon Peterson accomplished more in 31 years than many would in 100 years. I’m thankful that I got to share a few of those with him. While the world lost a little bit of magic on Tuesday, the stars in the heavens are shining a little bit brighter. And I’m willing to bet a few hidden Mickeys will be seen in the sunsets.
If you’d like to honor Brandon by supporting his family during this time, please visit the Lancaster Firefighters Association Local 3164 Facebook page. Mansfield Church of Christ is also asking people to honor Brandon with a white ribbon displayed in their front yard, to honor Brandon and show support for his family during this time.