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Shelter Island Reporter full obituary: Richard Allen Petry

Richard Allen “Dick” Petry passed away peacefully on Wednesday evening, August 31 after a long illness, but more notably after a long and full life. He was 88. 

Born on July 27, 1934 in Freeport to Helen and Charles Curtis Petry, Dick grew up as an only child in western Long Island during the years of its greatest growth.

Enterprising from an early age, he picked potatoes (in fields that would soon become Levittown), washed dishes, worked in a diner and — in his first entrepreneurial outing — sold Good Humor bars at the entrance to the Long Island Expressway in Hicksville, out of a trailer he hauled with his first car. The money he made from these various jobs would also go to fund his first boat.   

Dick was accepted by the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point where he followed his passion for knowledge and experience of the sea. At the Academy he met Paul Mobius, a fellow Kings Point wrestler, who became a lifelong friend and shared his love of scuba diving.

During his Kings Point years, Dick made a fateful and fortuitous decision to accept an invitation to a party honoring the cadets. The party was hosted at the home of Frederick and Mildred Frost in Douglaston, Queens by their daughter, Edith Caroline Frost, who went by Edie. It was love at first sight.

Dick graduated first in his class of 1956 from Kings Point and then began his sea duty on transport ships throughout the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic and Pacific oceans while continuing a courtship with Edie, who corresponded by letters and shared many joyful reunions when Dick returned from sea.

Requisite sea journeys completed, Dick married Edie on Sept. 21, 1957. He joined the Naval Reserve and began working for Alcoa and then Grace Lines shipping on the piers of the Hudson River.   

Always wanting to be near the water, Dick and Edie resided in Long Beach and commuted to the city for work. But he wasn’t keen to live out his life in the city. Looking for an opportunity, he learned from his father-in-law that The Pridwin Hotel on Shelter Island was for sale. (Fred and Mildred Frost discovered the Pridwin in the early 1930’s, where they vacationed annually with their two daughters, Jacqueline and Edie.)

Dick encouraged his friend Paul Mobius to join the venture, and with Fred’s help, the three purchased the Pridwin in 1961, and began operating in 1962. Dick and Edie relocated full time to Shelter Island where Dick built an extraordinary life operating the hotel, as a member of the Lions Club, golfing as a member of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, fishing inshore and off, and raising two sons, Glenn and Gregg.   

Later, after a full and active life, Dick was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Although the disease would eventually claim him, it also may have taught him how to relax for the first time in his life. In 2018, he and his sons partnered with Curtis Bashaw and Cape Resorts to renovate the Pridwin.

This summer Dick enjoyed the raising of the flagpole and helped cut the ribbon on the restored Pridwin, before celebrating his 88th birthday on the deck he built.

In a lost love letter recently rediscovered this past May, Edie wrote to Dick in the spring of 1956:  “Darling I miss you very much and can hardly wait until we are together forever. I hope you have a nice trip and don’t work too hard.”

His family is grateful in these past weeks he didn’t have to work too hard to make that trip back to her.

Predeceased by his wife Edie, Dick Petry is survived by his sons Glenn and Gregg and grandchildren Seneca, Ella, Jem and Todd Petry.   

The Petry family is enormously grateful to the Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services who are literally heroes in our midst; the nurses and doctors at Eastern Long Island Hospital for a human and humane hospital care we thought had been lost to the past; and to the Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Westhampton — truly enlightened and gentle guides on the journey to dying.

These organizations as well as the Michael J. Fox Foundation or American Parkinson Disease Association are well deserving of our support. Lastly and definitely not least, the family gives thanks to Alvin Cid, who cared for Dick with such grace in his final years.

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the family will receive friends at the DeFriest-Grattan Shelter Island Funeral at 23 West Neck Road from 5 to 8 p.m., and again Thursday, Sept. 8, from noon to 3 p.m.