When Edie and Dick Petry got a call from Lions Club Selection Committee Chairman Dr. Frank Adipietro to inform them they had been chosen as Citizens of the Year, they insisted that others were more deserving of the honor.
The couple had just returned from Florida and Ms. Petry was feeling under the weather or she would have put up more of a fight, she said.
“We laughed,” Ms. Petry said about the call from Dr. Frank, as he’s known on the Island. “We’re people who like to stay in the background, under a rock.”
But Dr. Frank is a formidable force who wasn’t going to be dissuaded by Ms. Petry’s protests. “Dick and Edie Petry are a remarkable couple who have dedicated themselves to the Shelter Island community in general and its youth, in particular,” Dr. Frank said. “I am honored and privileged to be associated with the year’s Citizens of the Year who personify volunteerism and community spirit.”
The Petrys purchased the Pridwin Hotel and Cottages back in 1962 with Ms. Petry’s parents, Mildred and Frederick Frost. It was a place Ms. Petry had been visiting annually with her parents since she was a child.
Mr. Petry, who had worked for W.R. Grace in New York, always wanted to own his own business. When the Pridwin came on the market, they bourght it.
It wasn’t easy in those early days, “especially when you don’t know a lot about running a hotel,” Ms. Petry said. She had also given birth to her oldest son, Glenn, and her husband was still working in New York City. He would be out on weekends, as were her parents, who helped care for Glenn. But during the week, she was on her own and found it lonely and felt cutoff without a car, she said.
On weekends, she would work as a waitress while Mr. Petry tended bar.
Despite her ties to the Island as a summer kid, she didn’t know the year-rounders and it took time to become assimilated, she said.
But she had fond memories of time spent here as a child and her sons, Glenn and Gregg, learned the family history and started to make some of their own. Initially, they wanted nothing to do with running the Pridwin, but when they started their own families, they were reminded of wonderful summer experiences on Shelter Island and are now involved with the operation of the hotel.
Ms. Petry cut back on her daily routine at the hotel a few years ago and doesn’t spend a lot of time there now. Occasionally, when guests are out who she’s come to know through the years, she will meet and pass the time with them.
Dick Petry, on the other hand, still spends much of his day at the hotel above Crescent Beach because he’s passionate about fishing and loves nothing more than heading out to catch what will be served at the restaurant that night.
The hotel has been a major gathering spot for many community events through the years, including the Lions Club annual scallop dinner. It’s no big surprise, then, that the dinner tonight, Thursday, May 22, honoring the Petrys, is at the Pridwin.
Through the years the Petrys, like all Island business owners, have been asked for contributions of food, money and services and have never failed to step up.
“You try to do what you can,” Ms. Petry said.
The couple’s involvement with Island youth started early, when their sons were young. Dick became a Scout master and Edie a den mother when the boys were Cub Scouts and Mr. Petry was a member of the town’s first recreation commission.
The couple would also transport Little League players to off-Island games. And Ms. Petry would entertain young children at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church while their parents attended Sunday morning services.
“You do what you have to do,” she said. “You don’t think about it.”
When she worked at the hotel, she was known to offer to take a crying child for a walk so parents could enjoy a peaceful meal. In today’s world, such an offer might be looked at not as a kindness, but as something strange, she said.
“It was a simple life” back then, Ms. Petry said. “Everyone had a good time.”
In September, the Petrys will celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary.