Vicki Lucile Peterson

Vicki Lucile Peterson, 71, of Arlee, passed away on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at home. 

Born on December 7, 1949, in Sunland, California to Boyd and Bobbie Burns, she was the oldest of four children. The family lived in California and Arizona, settling in Shaver Lake, CA in 1957 where her father built and remained at China Peak Ski Resort. Vicki was a competitive ski racer until breaking her leg after which time she turned her ski talents to being a ski instructor.

Vicki left Shaver Lake soon after graduation to go off and see the world, first in Los Angeles and then in Germany. She returned home from Germany to help care for her mother and then was off again on her adventures.

Vicki pursued a number of careers in Western states but the place she called home was Montana. With a heart for service, the work she held closest was her public health advocacy with underrepresented populations and within tribal communities across the country. A large measure of her success came from recognizing her Viking heritage and that she was a visitor in these communities and organizations. She shared her love and talents through her work at National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (Denver, CO) and Salish Kootenai College (SKC) (Pablo, MT). She was dedicated to tribal education and shared her gifts widely with students, co-workers and program partners at SKC. Her work as part of Community Health and Development was deeply rewarding to her.

The esteem in which she is held is best summarized by a longtime colleague: of the greatest forces to be reckoned with in my lifetime. Vicki’s arrival on the Montana scene as an activist for harm reduction/HIV/HCV took everyone by surprise and storm, and she took no prisoners, believe me. She changed the way we thought, worked, and made differences in disenfranchised populations. As she moved through life, her activism changed moods and became calmer and focused more on systemic change, but she was no less fierce. We have lost an iconic warrior who will probably never be replicated, and she will never be forgotten. So loved, so admired, so brilliant...her star will continue to shine in all of us. 

But by far, her greatest love was for her daughter Deanna Peterson and her granddaughter Lucy Layman. She found them both utterly fascinating and felt her life was enriched by their participation in it. A lover of the arts, Vicki was thrilled to be able to be part of Deanna’s rich art community of writers and musicians in Denver. She was always able to find a playfulness in her interactions with Lucy. When Vicki turned serious attention to fiction writing a few years ago, it was Lucy that served as her inspiration and muse in character and plot development.

Vicki was a force of nature bringing great joy to many. In her tenure as a Denver University student, she attained a bachelor’s degree and two masters degrees. She was working on her third in creative writing. She had a lifelong interest in reading and philosophy. She had a fondness for coloring with her gel pens, she couldn’t pass up a good deal, the UPS delivery guy got to know her by name, thanks to Amazon. Her baking is legendary with patrons of the Hangin Art Gallery in Arlee, and with co-workers at SKC.

As a final act of defiance Vicki finally marked purchasing 1994 Mustang Cobra off her bucket list. She boasted of her lead foot races up Ravalli Hill with local Tribal Officer, whose number shall remain anonymous.

Vicki was preceded in death by her parents Boyd and Bobbie Turner of California. 

She is survived by her daughter, Deanna Peterson, Missoula; her granddaughter, Lucy Layman, Denver; her sister, Janet (Reggie) Bauer Fresno, CA; brothers Mark Turner, Reno, NV and Chris Turner, Lake Tahoe, CA; along with her nieces and nephews. Survived also by Grandma Toni Castorino, Charlotte, NC who while not a “blood” relative was her deep partner in loving care for their granddaughter Lucy.

Please visit to share photographs and memories of Vicki. In honor of Vicki, her family and friends, we ask that you consider contributing to a Scholarship Fund in her name at Salish Kootenai College. We will post the link to contribute in her section at the above website. 

Services will be held at Salish Kootenai College on Monday, April 26, 2021 at 2 pm. We will continue to post updates at the Garden City website.

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