The Leon S. Peters Papers digitized collection consists of digital reproductions of manuscript materials collected by Leon and Alice Peters during their lifetime as well as materials from the Leon S. Peters Foundation.
Leon Samuel Peters was born on October 28, 1905, near Fowler, California, to parents Samuel and Lily Peters, the oldest of five children. The Peters family purchased a forty-acre ranch outside of Fowler in 1907 where Peters spent his childhood. Peters attended school in Fowler and graduated from Fowler High School as class valedictorian in 1923. Peters had planned to study law, but the death of his mother shortly before his high school graduation forced him to remain and work on the family farm.
From 1926 to 1929 Peters worked for his uncle’s grape packing and shipping business. In 1929 Peters met with representatives of Valley Foundry and Machine Works in order to negotiate the price and installation of a new pump for a well on the Peters ranch. Mr. Firstenberger, the manager of Valley Foundry was so impressed with Peters’s negotiating skills that he remarked that if Peters could “sell like he bought,” he would like to offer him a job. Peters initially turned down the offer because he felt he didn’t have any knowledge about buying, selling or pumps. Firstenberger was persistent, however, and eventually persuaded Peters to accept the job.
Peters was very successful at selling pumps and soon became the sole salesperson at Valley Foundry. After a disastrous fire in 1931, owner S. P. Keithly almost closed the business. However, at Peters’s suggestion they diversified the business in order to create as much work and income as possible during the Great Depression. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Valley Foundry began producing winery equipment.
Peters obtained his professional engineer’s license in 1939. In 1940 Peters purchased Valley Foundry from Keithly. During World War II, Peters secured several government contracts to make various types of machinery for the war effort and keep Valley Foundry in business. Peters married Alice Apregan in 1943. In 1969 Valley Foundry merged with Ametek, Inc. Peters became president of Valley Foundry and served on the Ametek board. Peters also served on the board of Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
After World War II Peters became increasingly involved in the community, joining the Fresno Chamber of Commerce and the Fresno Rotary Club. Peters was also very involved with Fresno Community Hospital, serving on the board starting in1949 and becoming president of the board in 1958. Peters’ accomplishments at Community Hospital include raising $1.6 million to build an expansion, and leading subsequent building drives to further enhance and expand the hospital. The hospital honored his efforts by naming their new rehabilitation center after him in 1976. Peters also became involved with California State University, Fresno, serving as a member of the university advisory board and on the boards for the Agriculture and Business colleges. Peters’ commitment of money and service to Fresno State led to the naming of the new business building after him in 1984. Peters was also a member of the board of Haigazian College in Lebanon from 1963 onwards. He served as a director for the Fresno Charitable Association, the United Way, the Fresno YMCA and Boy’s Club. Peters was also a Mason and belonged to Las Palmas Lodge 366 and Tehran Temple Shrine.
In November 1983 Peters passed away. His lifetime of community service and dedication earned him the nickname “Mr. Fresno,” and his community and charitable work was continued after his death by his wife, Alice Peters and the Leon S. Peters Foundation and perpetuated by the various awards scholarships that bear his name.
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