Ralph's Story

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BLUE HILL - Ralph P. Pettie (the middle initial stood for Parsons) died in Brewer on June 20, 2015. The younger son of the late Florence Parsons and Charles Edward Pettie, both parents Canadian-born and raised, he was born on the 3rd of February, 1933, in Brewer, Maine, then taken home to Bucksport where he lived until the age of fourteen.

He attended Bucksport schools until the end of World War II when his family moved to Bangor where Ralph graduated from Bangor High School in 1951. He applied to and was accepted at Boston University but decided instead to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, West Virginia. There he received his Bachelor's Degree in English in 1955 and, on scholarship, was immediately accepted for graduate study, also in English, at the University of Maine/Orono where he received his Master's Degree in 1956 after completing a thesis on American playwright Eugene O'Neill.

Charles Dickens once wrote "Regrets are the natural property of gray hairs." Ralph Pettie had a lifelong love for and interest in animals, domestic and wild, but particularly domestic. His one great regret in his, "gray hairs" retirement life was that he didn't have sufficient room to make a home for more unloved, unwanted animals. He wished he could have owned several acres of land in the country where animals of all kinds could have found a safe and warm environment, but that was clearly not to be. Instead he compensated by giving generous financial support on both the local and national levels to animal welfare agencies and shelters.

Ralph served his country for two years in the United States Army before accepting a teaching position in the Greenwich, Connecticut public school system where he taught English for thirty-four years and served as an advisor for the high school literary magazine. A member of several educational organizations, in 1989 he was nominated for and recognized by the school administration with a Distinguished Teacher citation. He retired from teaching in 1992 before returning to his native state of Maine where he moved into Parker Ridge, a retirement community in Blue Hill, just fifteen miles southwest of the small coastal town where he grew up.

While Ralph enjoyed traveling in his early teaching years and made several trips to the lands of his ancestors - Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland - he visited the European continent only once (in 1982).

During his Connecticut years he made frequent trips into New York City to attend theater and musical events and to visit art galleries. A lifelong Anglophile, especially of British writers, he spent two summer vacations in the mid-80s at Cambridge University in England teaching American high school students about the writers of his favorite periods of English literature: the nineteenth century Romantic and Victorian movements. But at least part of every summer vacation involved a return trip to Maine to visit family and friends.

He enjoyed amateur writing when he wasn't reading or listening mostly to classical music. Three of his favorite composers were Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn, the last named with whom he shared a birthday. Believing that Dustin and William Farnum, two famous early twentieth century actor brothers who grew up in his hometown of Bucksport, had not received the recognition their theater and film careers merited, Ralph published a book in 2000 entitled The Farnum Brothers of Bucksport. Between them, the brothers made almost two hundred movies in the infancy days of filmdom, to say nothing of their years in the theater. The older brother, Dustin, is buried in Silver Lake Cemetery in Bucksport, Maine. This quiet cemetery, overlooking serene Silver Lake, always struck Ralph as a pastoral rival for the third-act cemetery in Thornton Wilder's fictional play Our Town. It is here that Ralph's ashes will be interred.

Ralph is survived by his brother, Robert Pettie of Glenmont, New York, and two nephews (and their families): Mark Pettie of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, and David Pettie of Delmar, New York. Ralph is survived by several cousins in Maine, New York, and Canada.

To honor Ralph's love of animals, those who wish to do so may send a memorial contribution to the Bangor Humane Society, 693 Mt. Hope Avenue, Bangor, ME, 04401.

Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.
Published on  June 30, 2015
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