Walter Fitch Pettit
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1918 - 2014Adored father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, brother-in-law and uncle, Walter Fitch Pettit passed away recently at home surrounded by his loving family.
Walter was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 to Estelle Fitch Pettit & Karl Dravo Pettit. Walter was one of seven children: three brothers, Karl Pettit, Bill Pettit and Sam Pettit; and three sisters, Anne Biddle, Mary Funk and Barbara Finch. In the early 1920s the family moved from Brooklyn to Princeton, New Jersey, which they called home for over 70 years.
Walter graduated from The Asheville School for Boys in 1936 and from Princeton University in 1940. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy Air Corps and served from 1941-1945 as a lieutenant commander, and then again 1953-1955 as a lawyer for the Navy in Washington, D.C.
Walter attended Hastings College of the Law, graduating in 1950. He then began his legal career and practiced for over 45 years in San Francisco, eventually becoming the senior partner at Pettit & Martin Law Firm. Walter was a pioneer in government contract law and enjoyed many accomplishments in his field throughout his career including: section chairman of public contract law for the ABA, Fellow of the ABA section of public contract law, co-author of numerous articles on government contract law, author of The Treatise on Government Contracts & Default Termination and in 2004 was awarded "The Lifetime Achievement Award" by the ABA.
He took great pride in his professional accomplishments, but Walter also enjoyed all sports, especially racquet sports. He was captain of the tennis team at The Asheville School, and in 1937 he won the Freshmen Intercollegiate Title in tennis at Princeton University. At Princeton, he also took up the game of Squash Racquets, which became one of his life-long passions. Over the course of his life, he won many Squash Racquets championships and awards including: Ivy League Champion, National Inter-collegiate Champion, All American from Princeton University, Five-time National Champion, New York State Champion, California State Champion, Canadian Champion. In 2006, he was awarded the Jesters Cup, the prestigious award of the International Jesters Club for the player "making the greatest contribution to Squash Racquets" that year. And, in December 2013, Walter was inducted into the Olympic Club Hall of Fame for Squash Racquets.
Throughout his life, Walter was actively involved in his community and many organizations. He served as the chairman of the board of trustees of Santa Catalina School for 10 years, President of the Pacific-Union Club and The Villa Taverna in San Francisco. He also helped to found the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Legal Community Against Violence) in the wake of the tragic shootings at Pettit & Martin in July 1993.
More important than anything in his life, was his family. In 1943, Walter met the love of his life, Cherie Sutton on a blind date at the Berkeley Tennis Club. They married in 1946 and were together for 62 years. They raised three daughters of whom they were so proud: Anian Tunney (Peter), Lindsay Pettit and Cherie Arkley (Rob). They were also blessed with several grandchildren-Amy Bacon Clausing (Paul), Russell Norman Bacon (Paige), Adrienne Tunney Krumins (Rik), Catherine Tunney McDowell (Gavin), Allison Arkley Holland (Jeff), Elizabeth Arkley Hammett (Grey) and several great-grandchildren-Peter & Esme Krumins, Caroline & Camille Bacon, P.J. Clausing.
Walter often said he had the most beautiful life that anyone could ever hope for and that plain good luck was the keystone of his life, but we know better. It was his positive attitude and determination that was the key to his long and happy life. We have all been blessed to have him all of these years. "Pop" or "Shaker", as his family affectionately referred to him, will be dearly missed by all those that loved him most, but we carry with us his love of life and family. He is survived by his daughters, randchildren, great-grandchildren, brother Bill Pettit, sister Mary Funk, brother-in-law Judge Charles Zook Sutton and many nieces and nephews that he loved dearly.
A Celebration of Walter's life will be held on Wednesday, July 9th at the Piedmont Community Church at 3:00pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a contribution in his honor to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. You can donate online at www.smartgunlaws.org and designate the donation "In Memory of Walter Pettit", or you can send a check to The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and include "In Memory of Walter Pettit" in the memo line of the check. Their address is 268 Bush Street, #555, San Francisco, CA 94104.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from June 29 to July 1, 2014