Music became part of John W. Peterson’s life when he was growing up in Kansas. He enjoyed listening to all kinds of tunes and thought he might want to write songs someday.
Peterson, a longtime Scottsdale resident and member of Scottsdale Bible Church, died Sept. 20 at age 84 after a battle with cancer. He authored more than 1,000 religious hymns and his work is known worldwide. His death was mentioned on radio by legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey.
“He was one of the men in the church who was a father of the faith,” said Pat Sullivan, pastor of Scottsdale Bible Church. “He wasn’t a staff member, but he was a leader. He was very well respected in the evangelical music world. People will be singing the songs he wrote until Jesus comes back.”
Peterson composed songs such as: “It Took a Miracle,” “Over the Sunset Mountains,” “So Send I You,” “Springs of Living Water” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy.” Additionally, he wrote 35 cantatas and musicals. A list of his tunes can be found at
Peterson, who was born in Lindsborg, Kan., served as an Army Air Force pilot flying the famed “China Hump” in World War II. Later, he attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where he served on the radio staff for many years. In 1953, he graduated from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and settled in Pennsylvania to continue his songwriting career.
He later moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., where for more than 10 years he was president and editor-in-chief of Singspiration, a sacred music publishing company.
After relocating to Scottsdale during the 1970s, Peterson continued writing music and co-founded Good Life Productions and the John W. Peterson Music Company. He also served on the board of Family Life Radio Network in Tucson.
His autobiography, “The Miracle Goes On,” was published by Zondervan Publishing House in 1977, and a film by the same title was released by Gospel Films. In 1986, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and in 1996 at MusiCalifornia, he received the Ray DeVries Church Music Award. He’s listed in “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in the World.”
A memorial service will be 2 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Scottsdale Bible Church worship center, 7601 E. Shea Blvd.