This is the story of Juana Peterson Preston. It begins with the marriage of her incredible parents: James Martin Peterson, Jr. and Louisiana Carrie Heppler in 1903. Know as J. M. and Lou, this newly married couple settled in southern Utah in the little town of Richfield where J. M. was a well-respected businessman in the community and president of the Peterson Bank. J.M. and Lou quickly started a family. Their first child was stillborn; however, three more pregnancies added daughters Madge, Una, and Leah to their growing family. Therefore, when Louisiana realized she was pregnant for the fifth time in less than nine years, she couldn't bear to face the small community's wagging tongues. Knowing how vulnerable his wife felt, J.M. arranged a place in San Diego where she could live during her "confinement" (the term used in those days to define the nine months of a pregnancy). So Lou packed up her three little girls, invited her mother to join them, and off they went for an eight-month stay in San Diego. By the time the baby was born, Lou had become enamored with southern California and the influence of the Hispanic culture nearby. She especially loved the graceful name of Tia Juana, the little village just over the boarder, And she must have thought that the name Juana would fit well with the names of her two youngest little girls -- Una and Leah. So when the new baby was born, she was given the name of Juana. Eventually, Juana's sibling count grew by two brothers and four more sisters (one baby girl died as a new born), who, by the way, were all born back in that little southern Utah town of Richfield, Utah

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At an early age, Juana knew she wanted to be a dancer. Even before she was old enough to go to school, she would go out on the second floor balcony of their spacious Richfield home and perform a creative, original modern dance. The school children across the street would come every day to watch Juana dance during their recesses.

"Jitterbugging" her way through public school, Juana graduated from Richfield High in 1930. The next fall, she and her sister, Leah, went to Logan, Utah to attend Utah State Agricultural College (Utah State University). Majoring in Physical Education and Dance, Juana excelled scholastically during her four years at USAC and became a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the senior honorary fraternity. She not only achieved academically, but she was socially active as well. She served as senior vice-president of the Chi Omega society, and was also voted senior class secretary and first attendant to homecoming queen.

Even though she didn't have a lot of clothes, Juana was always a trendsetter when it came to fashions. For one of the first football games of the season at USAC, she wore the only thing she had: a white sweatshirt, to keep her warm, her black skirt, and white bobby sox. At the next game, all the girls were wearing black skirts, white sweatshirts, and white bobby sox. Juana and Leah only had one winter coat between them, so one of them signed up for morning classes and the other one signed up for afternoon classes. That way they could share the coat.

Since Juana and her sister, Leah, had not made arrangements for housing in Logan before they arrived for school, their parents left them in a motel with a directive to find an apartment. During their first few weeks in Logan, Juana and Leah became acquainted with Bill Preston, a college freshman. Learning that the Peterson sisters were looking for a place to live, Bill likely recommended they inquire about an opening in the apartment building located right next door to where he lived with his family. Taking Bill's advice, Juana and Leah were soon doing the "Charleston" in the tiny apartment on the very top floor of the Salisbury Apartment Building on East Center Street. That move was the beginning of a long friendship and eventually a courtship between Juana Peterson and Bill Preston. Many evenings, Bill could be found at the Salisbury Apartment visiting the Peterson girls. At 10 P.M., when the phone rang, Bill would announce: "That's my dad. Tell him I just left." He would then dash out of the little apartment, race down the three flights of stairs, dart across the front lawn, and bound through the front door of his home just as his father was hanging up the phone.

After graduation from the USAC, Juana did the "soft-shoe" south to Salt Lake City, Utah where she was a secretary for Stravell Paterson while Bill continued for a year at USAC in graduate, pre-med studies, and then from July 1936 to June 1937 Bill was appointed to Fort Warden in Washington State as a 2nd Lieutenant serving as Battery Commander in Battery E. 14th C. A. under the Thomason Act. He was the Mess Officer. He and Juana kept their courtship alive through letters that long, lonesome year.

When Bill returned from Fort Warden, he and Juana began talking marriage. One can only imagine the conversation about where their temple wedding should take place. The Preston family had strong ties and history with the Logan Latter-day Temple. Bill’s grandmother had been serving in the Logan Temple for many years, and word in Preston circles was that one of their ancestors had helped build the Logan Temple. That would be the logical place for Juana and Bill to be married.

On the other hand, Juana’s father was a counselor to the president of the Latter-day Temple in Manti, Utah. Though Juana's father was very ill and would not be able to travel to Logan, he could perform the sealing ceremony for Juana and Bill if they decided to be married in Manti.

On September 2, 1937, after a seven-year friendship/courtship, William Bowker Preston, IV (Bill) took Juana Peterson as his bride in the Latter-day Saint Temple in Manti, Utah. As it turned out, and obviously a great disappointment to Juana, her father was too ill to perform the ceremony. Regardless, the two were married, enjoyed at a lovely wedding breakfast with close family, and quickly journeyed to Salt Lake City where they boarded a train that evening and "waltzed" hand-in-hand to St. Louis, Missouri where Bill had been accepted to medical school at Washington University.

With World War II escalating around the world, Bill was only able to complete one year of medical school in St. Louis before he was called to active duty in the U.S. Army. On active duty, Bill and Juana "fox-trotted" all around the United States. During those years, Juana gave birth in 1940 to their first daughter, Peggy, in San Francisco; and their second daughter, Paulette (Polly) in 1943, at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. In 1944 Bill was shipped over seas to the European Theatre of World War II, and Juana moved with her two baby daughters to Salt Lake City, Utah where she bought a little house on Garfield Avenue. Every day Juana wrote Bill a letter sharing news about their little girls, and every night her prayers plead for his safe return. Likewise, Bill’s daily letters to Juana and the little girls shared news of what his life was like as he was stationed in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. Juana dance during those empty years was lonely and deeply emotional.

At the end of the war, Bill returned home to Utah at the end of October, 1946. Juana and Bill moved to Midvale, Utah, where they opened an ice cream soda fountain store that they named The "It's not my story to tell." Blue Cottage Ice Cream Store. Juana "Jived" around the Blue Cottage waiting tables and Bill made his signature Blue Cottage Ice Cream, burgers, scrimp, fish and chips, and coleslaw.

By 1947, Juana and Bill had survived the war and were starting to live the "happily-every-after" life of which they had dreamed. Soon their joy was multiplied when Juana gave birth to a son. And yes, you guessed it, they named their baby William Bowker Preston, V.

Life was good. . . . until . . . the baby, two-year-old Little Billie, and Peggy and Polly were diagnosed with diphtheria. Only the little girls had been vaccinated. Billie had not. On December 15, 1949, Little Billie died five days after he got sick. Juana and Bill were devastated. After two years of living through and surviving the worry and separation of World War II, this loss was more than they could bear.The dance, the music, the joy dissolved! Disappeared! A deep, numbing sadness enveloped their hearts.

The eventual birth of two more baby sons -- James Booker in 1951 and John Martin in 1953 -- helped to bring a soothing balm to these young parents. Regardless, Bill just didn't have the stamina or the heart to keep his ice cream cafe open, and eventually decided to close shop.

This called for a change of plan. While Bill was working at establishing a new career, Juana began her career as a middle school teacher. For the next twenty years, she not only reared her own four children, but touched the lives of thousands of young people who walked through the doors of West Jordan Jr. High School in West Jordan, Utah. She taught with love and tender understanding, but with a strict desire to help students learn. Juana was first hired as a counselor/P.E teacher, and eventually was a full-time Physical Education teacher. She taught sports, swimming, and coached the cheerleaders. She did not put up with "horse play" in her gyn. Her greatest love and passion came back into her life as she taught the young women in her classes the art and grace of dance.

Throughout these yeas, Juana served in the Latter-day Saint Church, teaching classes, writing and directing winning road shows, and for years served as Sacrament Meeting chorister. She was the kind of chorister who did not like the hymns to drag, and she would tap her toe and wave her baton with energy and enthusiasm pulling the organist and the congregation along with her.

Juana and Bill retired in Logan, Utah where their love story began. Bil built Juana's dream home with an indoor swimming pool, large white pillars on the front porch and blue throughout the interior. The house is located on the same block where they lived while at USAC In Logan, During these retirement years, Juana was active in the American Legion Auxiliary and the Logan Literary Club. She was also a member of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. She served in the Relief Society presidency in their Latter-day Saint ward.

Unfortunately, Parkinson's Disease became a constant "dance partner" for both Bill and Juana as they entered their "golden years." Juana passed away at age eighty, twelve years after Bill's demise. Ironically, the Homecoming Queen attendant was laid to rest beside her sweetheart in the Logan Cemetery on Saturday to the accompaniment of Utah State's Homecoming football game just over the hill. It would be interesting to know how many co-eds were wearing a white sweatshirt that day.

Juana was a stickler for doing things right. She taught her children to work hard, and she was always by their side to help with anything they attempted. She didn't believe in young people going out at night "bumming" as she called it. She thought that was cheap. Juana never talked unkindly about anyone. She didn't believe in gossip. She could not bear to hear family members speak negatively about other family members.

Juana lived by two mottos:

"It's not my news to share," and

"Your name is safe with me."

Life Story Info

Author

Paulette Preston Powell Yates

Post Date

Oct 01, 2018

Personal Info

Born

San Diego, California, United States

Died

Santa Ana, California, United States

Cause of Death

Age

Age

80

Religion and Beliefs

Latter-day Saint

Occupation

Education

Worked For

  • Jordan School District
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