Todd A. Peterson III

Todd was always a star.

On July 30, 2021, Floyd “Todd” A. Peterson III danced off the stage of this life into the next.

When he was a little boy, he had trouble with small motor coordination.  His mother thought that learning to twirl a baton would be a fun way to build his skills.  She had no idea how it would change his life!  Once he “got” something, you couldn’t stop him.  He went on to become a champion, “Mr. Baton”, and was admitted to the Baton Twirling Hall of Fame in 1994.  He also became a dancer on Broadway, in “Cats” and danced with Gregory Hines. A beautiful baby boy and a handsome man, he did modeling, music videos and a Dr. Pepper commercial. He worked in the Poconos as a Director of Theater at Camp Summit. He was one of the last performers at the Schoellkopf Field July 4th celebrations. He performed at the NY State Fair, winning multiple championships, learned acrobatics and to be a magician, thrilled to perform for anyone who could share that joy.  He was an ice dancer, as graceful on ice as he was on any stage. He was a puppeteer, created “Phoenicia”, a lovely dance partner with whom he could smoothly perform a smoking hot duet to Endless Love. His parents were always so proud of him, their youngest child, shining so brightly.

Closer to home, he had a long list of achievements as well. This is one star that wanted to give his light to as many people as possible.  He became a teacher, a coach, and a drill sergeant—it depends on who you ask. He worked at every school in the Ithaca school district, spending 38 years with students in a wide variety of positions. He spent over 30 years as Director of the Stewart Park Day Camp.  He directed and choreographed musicals, danced for the Ithaca Festival and was the founding choreographer of Running To Places.

Where he really shined was in the creation of performing groups who were incredibly good.  Anyone, he said, could be okay, his performers needed to be precise and perfect.  Yet no one was denied membership. In the Thunderbolts Marching Corps there were kids who didn’t believe in themselves, there were kids who were deaf, were blind, autistic or learning disabled, but everyone learned that they were as perfect and precise as they needed to be.  In the Todd Peterson Dancers, people of any age could dance with him, from big sister Linda to little niece Erin.  He could look at a child and see what they were capable of, even when they couldn’t. He influenced thousands of kids throughout the decades, many of whom were his nieces and nephews who loved their Uncle Toddy, and he adored them in return.

His family saw the side of him that he kept hidden. He was intensely shy and could only feel comfortable out in the world when he was performing. He withstood the racism directed at him as a little Black boy who loved twirling a baton, and later as a handsome young Black man working with children.  Grief was the thing that broke him as he aged. His oldest brother died in 1988, followed the next year by his sister, Linda.  In a sort of cascade of deaths, he lost parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and all his siblings but one, Julie Stewart.  He lived in the house that he had shared with them, the people who knew him best, and there he hid the depression and the PTSD that sometimes plagued him.  He withstood physical pain, financial difficulties, and deep sadness, but continued doing his very best with his students at Belle Sherman all through the pandemic and its complications.  He loved the people with whom he worked and knew how blessed he was to have them.   

Please join us for a Memorial Service at 10:00am, Saturday, August 14, to be held outside at Belle Sherman Elementary School, 501 Mitchell Street, Ithaca, NY.  We will be social distancing and wearing masks to protect each other; please do the same.

Whenever you look up into a clear night sky, look for a shooting star.  That will be our Todd, sharing his light once again.

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