Paul James Petrie

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Paul J. Petrie, 84, of Peace Dale, Rhode Island, passed away on Friday, November 9, 2012 at the Philip Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence, RI. Born in Detroit, Michigan to Louis and Mary (Squire) Petrie, he attended Wayne State University where he earned a B.A. and an M.A. and began his life's work as a poet. Following service in U.S. Army Intelligence during the Korean War, he earned his doctorate from the University of Iowa where he was a member of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He taught English and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode Island for 31 years, inspiring several generations of young writers. He published ten volumes of poetry including The Runners, winner of the Capricorn Award for 1984, and his work has appeared in over 100 literary journals and several anthologies. He left behind two unpublished volumes of poetry which can be found at

Petrie's nationally recognized poetry ranges widely from personal experience to universal questions on the meaning of life. Haunted by death and loss, his work continually points toward a wholeness beyond the material world yet glimpsed through it. Always the music of words, in rhyme or free verse, is at the heart of his poetry. Other interests included classical music, nature, tennis, and the New England Patriots.

The compassion so clearly revealed in his poetry was always manifest in his life as a husband and father. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, the printmaker Sylvia Spencer Petrie. Poet and artist often inspired each other. He is also mourned by their three children and spouses, Philip and his wife Mary Doak of San Diego, California, Emily and her husband Franco Giulianini of Holliston, Massachusetts, and Lisa and her husband Teo Getachew of Richmond, Rhode Island. He leaves also five grandchildren: Sara, Michael, Annalisa, Caterina, and Jonathan. His family and his poetry (indeed all of the arts) were the greatest joys of his life. His kindness, humor, enthusiasm, and integrity will be deeply missed.

A celebration of his life will be held at the University of Rhode Island's University Club, 95 Upper College Rd., Kingston, RI on Saturday, December 8, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island, 1085 North Main Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02904.
Published on from Nov. 26 to Nov. 27, 2012
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