Remembering Pete Colbenson: A Life Dedicated to Helping Others

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Updated Jan 15, 2023

COLBENSON, Peter Dahle

Peter (Pete) Dahle Colbenson of Atlanta, GA passed away in his sleep on December 31, 2022, while in Horseshoe Beach, FL on a fishing trip with his brother-in-law. Pete was born on July 12, 1948 in Knoxville, TN to Thelma Peters and Paul Colbenson. His childhood was spent between Knoxville, Seattle, and Clearwater before moving to Atlanta where he graduated from Therrell High School.

Pete obtained a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of TN, then moved to Atlanta to attend graduate school at Georgia State University where he earned a PhD in history in 1977. After teaching history as an adjunct professor, Pete decided to devote his career to making a difference in the lives of youth and began working for the Georgia juvenile justice system. His many leadership positions included Director of a Juvenile Treatment Center in Gwinnett County and Director of the Clayton County Regional Youth Detention Center. In May 1990, he joined the Office of Children and Youth/Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council as Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Specialist and liaison with the federal government.

Pete quickly became known throughout Georgia as a national expert on juvenile justice and was widely respected among juvenile court judges in Georgia and by the National Coalition for Juvenile Justice. In 2001, Pete was appointed by Governor Roy Barnes as the Executive Director of the Children and Youth Coordinating Council. During his tenure, Pete administered a grant program that helped create and fund innovative approaches to help children involved with the juvenile justice system in Georgia. He worked closely with juvenile court judges, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and providers to improve quality services for youth. Pete was widely respected and loved in Georgia and nationally for his brilliant mind, kind heart and collaborative leadership. Pete retired from state government in 2008. He was a recipient of the Georgia Juvenile Services Association’s Harold K. Ables Award recognizing his lifelong commitment to juvenile justice as well as and the Council of Juvenile Court Judges’ Martha K. Glaze Award given for his outstanding contributions in the fields of juvenile justice and child welfare.

Pete served on the Board of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership during his career and in his retirement. Following retirement, he consulted with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange assisting in their formation. Pete had a special interest in mental health and joined the Board of NAMI, Georgia, where he served on the Executive Committee. Pete is remembered for helping others and served as a mentor to many throughout his life. He was a great storyteller and loved to spin a tale. Pete was also an avid reader and gardener who delighted in giving away his tomatoes and produce to friends and family. He spent many hours volunteering at his local community garden. Pete possessed an exceptionally generous, kind, loving spirit that endeared him to everyone with whom he ever interacted.

Pete was a music lover and a lifelong fisherman who told great fishing tales. Throughout his life, Pete fished in oceans, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico, where he would plan getaways with friends and his brother-in-law. His favorite mottos were “I fish, therefore I am.” and “I never met a fish I didn’t like.” Pete was predeceased by his parents and sister, Peggy Colbenson. He is survived by his wife, Kathy Colbenson; his daughter, Amanda Colbenson; his stepdaughter, Shannon Brown; his brother-in-law, Cal Hansard; his niece, Paula Weeks and great-niece, Summer Rae Davidson; as well as other nieces and nephews. Services will take place on Friday, January 20th at 11 AM at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church 435 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to CHRIS 180, Inc., NAMI Georgia, or the Georgia Family Connection Partnership.

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