Guy Petty: Architect, Volunteer, Rock Steady Co-Founder

Guy Petty

Guy Edmund Petty died on May 9, 2023. With great dignity and a Guy-like sense of humor, he suffered the ravages of Parkinson’s disease for over 15 years. But that’s not what we remember about Guy. In every note of condolence or remembrance from old and new friends were the words SWEET, KIND, GENTLE, GOOD-HUMORED.

Guy was born and raised in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, went to Penn State from which he graduated with a degree in architecture, and moved to Arizona – partially to escape the local draft board in his hometown – but was found and drafted into the Army.

Guy later decided to settle in Maine, working for a small architecture firm in Durham, New Hampshire. He met two UNH faculty whose influence determined the career he’d have for 40 years. He was recruited to teach “green building” classes. This led to his eventual appointment as a professor and he became active in the UNH university senate. He married and had two sons, and was divorced years later. He retired in 2010 as a full professor and decided to move to Fernandina Beach, Florida.

After meeting Wanda Lanier, Director of Barnabas, within days of moving to Fernandina, he and his partner became volunteers, and Guy also a member of the building committee. A building was bought and Guy served as the “inside architect” – that means the unpaid one! – and then recruited Peter Usher, whom he met at Easter services at St. Peter’s, to work with him. They became fast friends for the rest of Guy’s life. A bench in front of the Barnabas building says to visitors, “Thanks to Guy and Pete, take a seat.” Guy was very involved in the Amelia Island Petanque Club and its annual tournament, helping to build more than 90 courts to accommodate the international event each year, and meeting six other couples who became fast friends. He continued to work at Barnabas in the food bank. He followed local issues and appeared at many commission meetings, once asking, “Are we a city with a port, or a port with a city?” which became the headline in the local newspaper. He went fishing once a week and to Cumberland Island in his small boat.

Guy’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s did not initially slow him down. He with his partner co-founded the Amelia Island Rock Steady Boxing Club, the 86th in the world (there are now over 2000) and the first in northern Florida, to aid the stabilization of PD sufferers. It is still in operation and helping many. It had recognition from the Mayo Clinic and spurred the founding of at least two other branches of Rock Steady in north Florida. Alas, Parkinson’s takes its effect but Guy still fought on, aided by two special local friends, Peter Usher and Ken Owens, who spent many kind and meaningful hours with him.

Besides his partner, Mary Anne Sharer, Guy is survived by his sons, Mac and Dean Petty, his brother Mac Petty, his honorary family of Sharers and Waikarts, and many fond cousins and relatives, including his honorary granddaughters, Natalie and Elizabeth Waikart, with whom he sang many songs, painted many paintings, and built fairy houses in the western Maryland woods.

You can honor Guy’s memory by making a gift online to Barnabas Center, or by calling 904-277-7000, ext.107

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Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
6 months ago

Such a loss. We have so many local heroes.

Trudie Richards
Trudie Richards (@guest_69858)
6 months ago

Such a truly exceptional person. It was an honour to know him, if only slightly.

Paul Lore
Paul Lore (@guest_69862)
6 months ago

Beautiful man

Ken Owens
Ken Owens (@guest_69866)
6 months ago

Guy was one of the kindest, most gentle and caring people I’ve ever met. He was also VERY funny. I will miss him very much.