BBB pays tribute to 'Lady Plumber' Donna Peterson
Last updated 10/3/2023 at 7:56pm
Donna Peterson, an 88-year-old trailblazing businesswoman from Orange, was one of two women honored last week by the Better Business Bureau Education Foundation's first Distinguished Women of Southeast Texas award.
She was presented the award during an expo and conference at Ford Park arena in Beaumont, with speakers including Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens and Elyse Thibodeaux of Bridge City's Tiger Rock Martial Arts, who presented a demonstration on self-defense.
Peterson has owned and operated A-1 Peterson Plumbing for 55 years and became one of the first women in Texas to earn the Master Plumber designation.
She and her late husband, Richard (Dick) Peterson, a U.S. Navy veteran, began the company 55 years ago with one Roto-Rooter machine they carried in the trunk of their car to jobs. She moved things around to make a small pantry in their kitchen into a home office space.
She became known around town as the "Lady Plumber" after a local newspaper ran a photograph of her speaking on Career Day to her daughter's school class. She had worn her plumbing uniform and brought a drain-cleaning machine to the school for the demonstration.
Through the years, the business continued to grow and expand to offer all kinds of plumbing and septic job services.. The company for many years has owned a landmark building and space on Border Street in Orange.
After Orange County took a big hit from Hurricane Rita in 2005, the Peterson building was damaged, but she opened up to cook and do laundry for people. Her family, also involved in the business, worked to clear roads of fallen trees and debris so emergency workers could get through.
Peterson herself became a first responder. She helped save the life of a neighbor by giving CPR in her driveway as they waited for first responders.
Not long after the hurricane, Richard Peterson passed away. Donna Peterson dealt with the family loss and continued working in the business and serving the public.
She was selected by the Houston Astros as a "hometown hero" and was featured to throw the first pitch at Minute Maid Park game.
In 2020, the BBB of Southeast Texas gave her the Torch Award for a tradition of ethics in business. A-1 Plumbing that year was certified as a Woman Owned Business.
The company is now run by sons Bill and Richard II, along with daughter, Donna, a retired Army major and one of the first women to graduate from the West Point Military Academy.