The Lautner World Loses Karol Lautner Peterson

Karol Lautner Peterson at the Jacobsen residence. Photo by Mark Picascio; all rights reserved
Karol Lautner Peterson at the Jacobsen residence. Photo by Mark Picascio; all rights reserved

Karol Lautner Peterson died early in the morning of August 25, 2015, in her home. She was surrounded by close, loving family members.

Karol was the president of The John Lautner Foundation as well as a former member of several boards and commissions in Marquette, Michigan. She was a lifetime advocate for the work of John Lautner and worked tirelessly to preserve it and to educate others about it.


Karol on the steps of the Jacobsen residence. Photo by Mark Picascio; all rights reserved.
Karol on the steps of the Jacobsen residence. Photo by Mark Picascio; all rights reserved.
Judith Lautner, Melissa Matuscak, and Karol Lautner Peterson on the edge of the Sheats-Goldstein residence. Photo courtesy of Melissa Matuscak.

At the time of her death, Karol was working, along with the rest of the board of directors, with two Cal Poly Pomona professors to help list several Lautner buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.  She was also studying methods for creating endowment funds, in hopes of creating one that will fund the Foundation over many years, and helping develop a preservation fund.

Karol on Lake Superior. Photo by Jessica
Karol on Lake Superior. Photo by Jessica Anders

She was the guiding force that created the Foundation in 1996 and saw it through to its acceptance as an educational nonprofit in 1998.

Judy Lautner with Karol in Palm Springs during Modernism Week in 2015.

She was instrumental in developing the year-long celebration of John Lautner’s 100th birthday in 2011.   One of her prime achievements as head of the Foundation was the transfer of the John Lautner archive to the Getty, where it will be protected and preserved for generations to come. She was always celebrating the work of John Lautner in one way or another.

Karol at an event at the Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs.
Karol at an event at the Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs.

Aside from being a tireless worker for architecture, Karol was a loving mother of two, wife of many years to Bruce Peterson, oldest of seven children of her mother, enthusiastic volunteer at the DeVos Museum of Art (Marquette), preservationist of family history, and loving friend to more people than can be counted. She was always busy, and loved to relax by kayaking in Lake Superior. For 22 years she joined the walk across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day.



Services will be held in Marquette, Michigan, at the

First Presbyterian Church
120 N. Front Street on
Friday, August 28, 2015:

10 – 12 Visitation
12 – 1  Memorial Service
1 – 2  Reception in the church hall

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be given to The John Lautner Foundation at or the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter, 84 Snowfield Road, Negaunee, MI, 49866.

The Foundation also plans to host a memorial celebration of Karol Lautner Peterson’s life in the near future in the Los Angeles area. Details will be announced as soon as they are available.

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9 thoughts on “The Lautner World Loses Karol Lautner Peterson”

  1. May Karol’s spirit forever be with us. Her tireless dedication to those things she felt dearly about is an inspiration.
    Rest in peace.
    My profound condolences.

  2. Although we were unable to know Karol intimately, we shared a love and respect for John Lautner and his work. The Round House in Pensacola, Florida that John designed is still a highlight in my building career.

  3. My condolences to the Lautner and Peterson families. I knew Karol’s brother Mike and loved it whenever he told me stories about his family. Karol is with Mike now. May they both rest in peace.

  4. Dorothy Tomilson, a valued volunteer for the Foundation, had this to say in an email. It is reprinted here with her permission:

    “Such sad news. I am so sorry to hear of Karol’s passing.

    I have wonderful memories of all our trips to LA, Desert Hot Springs, and the Southland in general, meeting up with Karol and dashing around in a whirl to all of the various events. Karol, always out in front, with more energy than the two of us combined! I remember being stunned at how fit and youthful she was when I saw her swimming laps at the Magic Hotel the first time I stayed there. I loved her vigor and her passion for the Foundation and for her family.

    I’m truly grateful you and Karol welcomed me along to participate in so many exciting and special events and to see so many awe-inspiring Lautner designed residences during the years I was helping with the mailing lists. I loved Karol’s warmth and her directness, her action oriented style, her strength; she had a beautiful intensity about her.

    She was a striking, smart, talented woman who exemplified the word “alive”.”

  5. I am really sad to learn of Karol’s passing….I had known both she and Bruce since we were young in Marquette, played basketball with Bruce for several years, met with them several times when I revisited my hometown, Marquette, Michigan. We were close in our “vintage,” although I was a couple of years younger….My life took me away from Marquette to college, overseas, and elsewhere for many years. But I returned to Marquette for a year, in 1968-69, worked at NMU, and saw them a few times…Again, in 1972, when I also took one of their friends westward to Nebraska, where I had continued university work…and ultimately to California, where again became familiar with John Lautner’s work–although I lived north, in Santa Cruz for twelve years–and visited L.A. on behalf of artists I represented there, 1980-’86. Interesting how our lives led us away from Marquette….but the timing was such, during our young adulthood, where jobs and careers meant it necessary to depart for other regions. How much water has passed beneath our bridges! I still have found memories of my friendship with them….and you cannot take that away…..Being a 4th Gen Yooper, I now live in Edenton, N. Carolina–and after many places in between 1958 and now, I still occasionally get back to my hometown…and have relatives and friends there. Again, so sorry to learn of Karol’s passing….She had many friends, and was a wonderful person!

  6. Received by email today:

    I’m so sorry,…….

    I couldn’t have never imagined to get in touch with the daughter of my favourite architect but she made it possible.

    Karol Lautner gave me something that I will never forget, she put my name to a number. Her words were kind and generous.

    No matter where I will be, her memory will always feed my spirit.

    my deepest condolences

    Montse Campanario Pujol

  7. Karol was a very generous soul who not only found a way to honor her father’s body of work but reached out to others she didn’t know by being kind and supportive. Thank you Karol for not only continuing the legacy of your father but also for creating one for yourself by being someone who contributes to others.

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