The Rev. David B. "Pete" Pedersen, who served as pastor of Maryland Presbyterian Church in Towson for nearly a quarter-century before retiring in 1994, died of a heart attack Saturday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The longtime Towson resident was 73.
Dr. Pedersen was born in Atlanta and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he graduated from the Baylor School, a military academy, in 1952. He attended Georgia Tech University on a football scholarship, playing center for one season, before transferring to Emory University.
As an undergraduate, he spent a summer in Alaska fighting forest fires as a smokejumper, once injuring his hip while parachuting. While teaching a survival swimming course at Emory, he asked one of his students, Diane Strange, out on a date. They married about two weeks before their graduation from Emory in the summer of 1956.
Dr. Pedersen, who had earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Emory, earned a master's in theology at Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia. In 1959, he and his wife moved to Switzerland, where Mr. Pedersen studied theology at the University of Basel.
Upon the couple's return to the United States in 1963, he became a theology professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. The next year, he was ordained at the First Presbyterian Church of Staunton, Va., and became a professor and college chaplain at Mary Baldwin College, also in Staunton.
A staunch civil rights advocate, Dr. Pedersen once took a small group of students from Mary Baldwin to Montgomery, Ala., to march in a demonstration led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
While working toward a doctorate in philosophy at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Dr. Pedersen heard of an opening for a pastor at a church in Towson. He applied for the job and got it, and he and his wife moved to Beaverbank Circle in Towson in March 1970.
Dr. Pedersen went on to serve as pastor of the church for the next 24 years, earning his doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in 1972.
At the church, Dr. Pedersen helped start a mission program that included the church's sponsorship of a sister parish in El Salvador.
He oversaw the renovation of the church's sanctuary and helped create a memorial garden, where he is to be buried.
In addition to his work at the church, Dr. Pedersen taught courses at Goucher College, his family said.
He was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German and French, and had a passion for classical music.
"His love was books -- books and sailing," his wife said. He liked to sail on Middle River in eastern Baltimore County.
Dr. Pedersen retired from the church in 1994. He later served as chaplain at Glen Meadows Retirement Community for three years.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 15 at Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Road, Towson.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years; two sons, Eric Pedersen of Stamford, Conn., and John Pedersen of Boston; a daughter, Christiane Pedersen Densel of Boston; five granddaughters; and two grandsons.