Harold Petersen, a former chief of the Malverne Fire Department and deli owner, died on July 31 of complications of pneumonia. He was 71.
Petersen, who was known as Hal, was born on May 15, 1941, in Brooklyn, and was raised in Cambria Heights, Queens. He graduated from Andrew Jackson High School in Queens in 1959.
Petersen was known throughout the Malverne community and was a devoted family man, said his widow, Linda Petersen, who added that the two met in 1964 and married in 1967 at Our Lady of Peace Church in Lynbrook. They went on to have four children,Tom, Lisa, Kathryn and Brian.
A Malverne resident for more than 50 years, Petersen was an active member of the community, relatives said, someone who cared for those in the village and who always lent a helping hand.
Tom Petersen, 40, said his father owned Petersen’s Deli in Malverne for 45 years. “They bought the deli, and after a couple years, they moved to Malverne to be closer to it,” Tom said of his parents. “[My father’s] cousin owned a deli in Malverne too.”
Tom said that his father employed more than 40 high school and college students at his business, and used the deli “as a vessel to give back to the community.”
“And if someone couldn’t pay, they’d pay next time,” Tom recalled. “He was very giving. He loved people coming in and saying hello every morning. When we had to sell it 11 years ago, he had a hard time. He just loved talking to people.”
Petersen often volunteered in the community, and was a charter and longtime member of the Malverne Merchants and Professional Association. He was a member of the Malverne Traffic Commission, was active at Our Lady of Lourdes Church and coached in the Malverne Little League as well as CYO soccer and basketball. For the past 11 years, family members said, he worked as a custodian at the Nassau County Police Department’s 4th Precinct. When he wasn’t working, they said, he enjoyed a range of hobbies, including playing golf and riding his bike around town, and he was also an accordionist.
“Most people considered him a fixture in the community, and remember him for always being happy, smiling, brightening everyone’s day,” Tom said. “He loved to run into people. He was friendly and nice as anyone could be.”