Dennis Charles Peterson

dennis peterson

Dennis C. Peterson: 5 February 1937 – 24 August 2023

Dennis Charles Peterson, son of Harley E. and Verona (Yaekal) Peterson, dedicated his life to the intelligence services of his country. A native son of North Dakota, Dennis personified the pioneering spirit. He was a Freemason and Shriner, known as a man of sterling integrity, a faithful husband, caring soul, humble genius, with a marvelous sense of humor, sardonic wit, and was unassumingly tough as North Dakota’s winters.

He was born in Underwood, North Dakota, February 5, 1937, later moving to his hometown of Washburn in 1939. After completing his high school curriculum in only three years, Dennis enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in August 1954. He attended the Air Force Security Service Technical School and was designated a Radio Traffic Intercept Analyst. Prior to departing the United States for his first overseas assignment, Dennis returned to graduate at the top of his class at Washburn High School in 1955. Dennis served in Germany from June 1955 to June 1958.

Following his overseas duty, he utilized his G.I. Bill and attended Indiana Technical College in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in pursuit of his Aeronautical Engineering degree. Following his freshman year, he transferred to North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, North Dakota. Dennis graduated in May 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering.

Dennis was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and passed a rigorous interview and polygraph process, entering duty with the agency in June 1962. He would serve under President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Ironically, this was only one of three connections he would have to JFK’s Presidency as his fellow Washburn High School graduate, Clinton Hill, was the Secret Service Agent famously jumping on the back of the Presidential Limousine in Dallas, and his future father-in-law, Charles “Chick” Reynolds was President Kennedy’s official stenographer, who was also present on that sad day in November of 1963.

Mr. Peterson’s career continued as a foreign space weapons analyst, focusing on the Soviet Union’s space program. He additionally served overseas as a Special Weapons and Space Training Officer with other U.S. allies. His ability to digest

copious volumes of information placed him on a fast-track career progression. He advanced quickly through Section Chief, Branch Chief, Deputy Division Chief, Division Chief of two separate Divisions, and a member of the elite Senior Executive Service for the United States of America.

During this time, he met and ultimately married the love of his life Joan (Baucom) Peterson, who also worked within the Intelligence Community. They were blessed to have more than 43 years together.

His career in the United States Intelligence Community spanned more than sixty years through the dawn of the Soviet space program with Sputnik, until the collapse of the USSR. His tenure also saw the raise of other threats during the Global War on Terrorism and into the New Cold War Era with emerging threats from peer adversaries such as China and Russia.

Dennis retired from the CIA with more than 32 years of service in 1994 and was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit as one of the pioneers that policymakers relied upon heavily during the height of the Cold War. He was a pivotal player in our nation’s history when the threat of nuclear war was omnipresent. He continued to serve the United States of America in a similar capacity as a contractor with a large aerospace company, then later with another high-tech company, ultimately retiring for good in 2018 at the age of 81.

Never one to complain, Dennis endured multiple hospitalizations in recent years with grace and dignity. He was a fighter that remained intellectually curious and engaged to the end. He was predeceased in death by his brother, Willard and four sisters, Magdalene, Marguerite, and twin sisters Lila and Lola. He survived by his wife Joan, many close friends too numerous to list them all, and several nieces and nephews.

While Joan was his greatest love, Dennis deeply loved all animals too. The deer, foxes, and racoons that visited his property would routinely come by for a friendly handout. He and Joan have also doted on their eleven cats through the years. Ralph, Trixie, Mabel, Max, Daisy, Cha Cha, and Candy are with Dennis again in heaven, while Simon, Joy, Charlie, and Andy remain here with Joan. Joy was especially close with Dennis and would always jump in his lap to be petted and to fall asleep comforting one another.

Dennis was loved by everyone who knew him, and he will truly be missed. He was a wonderfully generous and caring person. He adored Joan and she him. They will be joined again in God’s time, for now she takes great comfort knowing he is with family and friends that love him.

Dennis and Joan would like to extend their gratitude to all those that have assisted them, especially the dedicated professionals of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue at Wolf Trap Fire Station No. 42, Reston Hospital, and Virginia Hospital Center. Additionally, they send their deepest love to all their devoted friends that have consistently been there for them and visited Dennis during his extended hospitalizations.

Visitation and Memorial Services will be held at Money and King Funeral Home, 171 Maple Ave W, Vienna, VA 22180. Interment will be at Quantico National Cemetery. Flowers are welcome, however being tremendous animal lovers, Dennis and Joan would also encourage you to donate to your local animal shelter or favorite animal charity in lieu of flowers.


Visitation: September 14, 2023 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Money and King Funeral Home
171 W. Maple Ave.
Vienna, VA 22180


Service: September 15, 2023 11:00 am

Money & King Funeral Home
171 W. Maple Ave.
Vienna, VA 22180


Graveside Service: September 15, 2023 1:00 pm

Quantico National Cemetery
18424 Joplin Rd.
Triangle, VA 22172


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Memories Timeline


  1. Uncle Dennis was the first person I remember to ever ask if I liked science and math
    My sincere condolences for Joan.
    Peace be with us

  2. Pete
    Great working alongside you at CIA during those critical times in US Intelligence, and bumping into you every now and then and chatting for a few minutes at a Northwest Federal Credit Union Branch. Something drew me to flip through that section of the newspaper yesterday where I spotted your picture, and memories came back. I’ll always remember your smile.

    Fred Cirillo

  3. It was always a special treat when Uncle Dennis came to visit, bringing chemistry sets and curiosity. What wonderful gifts! I know that he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

  4. I had the honor and privilege of getting to know both Dennis and Joan through work. Two nicer and generous people you could never meet. I affectionately referred to Joan as my “work mom.” Dennis was the gentleman’s gentleman. Soft-spoken and super intelligent, he was a wealth of knowledge and his insights were always very much appreciated. I know that he will be missed by Joan and all those who knew and loved him. God bless Joan and the family during this difficult time.

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