Thanks to the efforts of former State Sen. Don Pederson, Nebraska’s arts and humanities programs have been enriched and its residents have been given incentives to save historic buildings and money for college.
Pederson, who served in the Legislature from 1996 to 2007, was instrumental in passing legislation that established the Nebraska College Savings Plan, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and a constitutional amendment that encouraged preserving historical buildings using a tax-deferred benefit.
As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the North Platte senator led the Legislature’s budget-writing process and was known for being calm, efficient and able to look out for the state’s best interests with limited resources.
His legacy as a state senator is being remembered following Pederson’s death Sunday at his home in Lincoln. He was 90.
His wife, June Pederson, said he died of pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed May 14.
Pederson was appointed to the Legislature in September 1996 to replace David Bernard-Stevens, who had resigned. He was elected later in 1996 and won reelection in 1998 and 2002. The state law limiting state senators to two terms barred him from running in 2006.
Pederson was a longtime resident of North Platte. He is the father of former Husker Athletic Director Steve Pederson.
“We were blessed to have the finest man anyone could ask to lead our family,” his family said in a statement. “His life of genuine caring and service was an inspiration to us all.”
June Pederson said her husband’s “insatiable curiosity” made him a good state senator, one who was “interested in everything and every person.” That curiosity and his concern for others was also part of his charm, she said.
And it helped him see “the big picture” in serving the state, she said.
Pederson graduated from Benson High School, where he served as class president, was an honor student and later became a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. He attended Grinnell College in Iowa and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 1954, he graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law.
He married Virginia Cummings on Dec. 28, 1952. Before her death, they were married 49 years and raised their four sons in North Platte.
He started his law career as deputy county attorney in Scotts Bluff County. He soon joined the law firm Beatty Clarke Murphy and Morgan in North Platte. He built the law firm Murphy Pederson & Piccolo, eventually being joined by his son David, a 1980 NU law school graduate.
The tradition continues today at the Pederson Law Office, where David has since been joined by his daughter Laura Troshynski and son Matthew Pederson.
On Nov. 14, 2003, Don Pederson married June Remington at the State Capitol. They became active members of the Lincoln community.
He is survived by his wife, four sons, 12 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Services are pending.