Pettee, Michael O.
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Born July 16, 1929, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Michael Pettee died in his home in Westport, CT on March 7, 2013 after a long and sometimes difficult journey through cancer treatment. Preceded in death by parents Cmdr. Everett Edward Pettee and Mary Hartung Pettee and spouse, Nancie Shea Pettee. He married Ann Walton Pettee and was married for 43 years until her death in 2008. Survived by sister, Mary Katherine Pettee, six children, Marianne Churchwell, Michael (Martha) Pettee, Timothy (Sheila) Pettee, Brian Pettee, David (Heidi) Pettee, and Amy (Jim) Dempsey, and eleven grandchildren, Alison and Claire Churchwell, Benjamin Pettee, George, Alex, Katherine and Elizabeth Pettee, Olivia and Grace Pettee, and Annie and Charlotte Dempsey.
Born to Naval Commander Everett Pettee and Mary Hartung Pettee, Mike grew up swimming in the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minnesota. He graduated from Shattuck School, Fairbault, MN in 1947. He attended Yale with the help of a "bursary job" scholarship and a Northwest Alumni Loan.
Yale was an extremely important part of Mike's life. As a member of the Yale swim team he went undefeated for 4 years and, more importantly, met lifelong friends. He assisted history professor, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Yale President, A. Whitney Griswold who encouraged him to major in history. An articulate and industrious student, Mike won the 1951 Sterling Memorial Map Prize for his thesis, "Daniel Webster and the Northeast Boundary Dispute." He graduated with a BA in History, 1951.
For 62 years he was actively involved in the Association of Yale Alumni, serving as class officer, Davenport's Class Agent, Chairman of Agents, Special Gifts Chairman, AYA Delegate, Reunion Directory Publisher, Class of 1951 Webmaster, secretary of the 60th Reunion in June, 2011, and finally traveling to universities in China as a global outreach delegate in the summer of 2011.
An ROTC officer at Yale, Mike joined the USAF upon graduation and was assigned to counter-intelligence in the Office of Special Investigations as a 2nd Lieutenant. The adventures of "Grampy" the spy at the North African desk were always a favorite of the grandchildren.
Mike met Nancie Shea when she attended Albertus Magnus College and he Yale. They married March 15, 1952 and had five children, Marianne, Michael, Tim, and twins Brian and David. After Nancie died in 1965, Michael married Ann Walton in 1966 and brought one more child, Amy, to the Pettee clan.
After the USAF, Mike spent a short time back in Minnesota working for 3M then went to work in human resources for National Sugar Refinery Company in 1958. In 1966 Mike joined McGraw Hill in purchasing, and finished his career as purchasing agent for the town of Fairfield, CT from 1988 to 1998.
A 55-year resident of Westport, with 43 of those years on Compo Parkway, Mike was deeply connected to his town. As a little league umpire, a softball coach, an auxiliary police office (the best way to keep tabs on six kids), an active Republican, and member of the Longshore 50th reunion board, Mike enthusiastically served his community. He and other engaged Westport retirees formed RGLO, Regular Guys Lunch Out, where they solved town and world problems over sandwiches every month.
Always disciplined, purposeful, and according to his long-time rowing partner, Paul Green, brave. Mike took up rowing in the late 1980's. He became a master rower and at the age of 71, a beloved rowing coach for New Canaan High School. Mike and Paul won a gold medal in a blustery, 1000-meter Masters National in Worchester, Mass. in 2010 when Mike was 81.
Mike proudly attended 84 back-to-school nights at Westport schools and his family meant everything to him. There are scores of stories of camping and sailing trips, vacations "up river" in Minnesota, reunions on Block Island, and the literally hundreds of celebrations - birthdays and baptisms, graduations and weddings - that come with a family of six. Mike's grandchildren cherish memories of their 10-day "Cowboy Adventure" to the Wild West with their Gramps in 2009.
Ever a romantic, Mike had a wonderful partnership with the second love of his life, Andy Walton Pettee. They traveled the world together, made and kept great friends, and were themselves the very best of friends. Bereft when Andy died of cancer in 2008, Mike found comfort in doing "what mom would have done" and bought fresh flowers every week, sent birthday cards on time, and stayed intimately involved in the lives of his children. He regularly published a newsy email for all his progeny called Pettee Points.
The French have a description for someone who lives life well; it's bon vivant. In the very best sense of that phrase, Michael Pettee was and will remain a bon vivant. He lived life well. He loved deliberately. He laughed heartily. He enjoyed good food and wine, great conversation, and the company of people. It's with great sorrow that we say bon voyage to a man who made so much of life.
The family will celebrate Mike's life at a funeral mass, 10 am, Friday, March 15, at Saint Luke's Catholic Church, 49 Turkey Hill Road, Westport. Lunch at 12 pm at Saugatuck Rowing Club, 521 Riverside Ave, Westport. Memorials to Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk Hospital Foundation or Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and enjoy special times with your family, love one another and toast a life well lived.
Published in StamfordAdvocate on Mar. 13, 2013