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Robert M. Petitt

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PORTLAND - Robert M. Petitt passed away at Village Crossings in Cape Elizabeth on Jan. 28, 2013, surrounded by his loving family.
He was born on Feb. 5, 1921, in Minnesota, the eldest child of Robert and Letha Petitt and was a graduate of Mason City (Iowa) High School and Northwestern University, class of 1944.
Following his graduation from the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School at Harvard, he joined Carrier Air Support Unit 22 at Sanford naval air station as an ensign, accompanied by his new bride Mary Beth Piersol of Kankakee, Ill. The following year he joined the crew of the escort carrier U.S.S. Kitkun Bay, and entered the Pacific theater, which eventually took him to the Japanese surrender operation.
Upon his return to inactive status after WWII, he worked as a Ford district manager, and then started his own farm machinery business in Ottawa, Ill. He attained his Scottish Rite with the Masons in that town, and developed a lifetime friendship with local businessman Fritz Rabenstein who, with Bob's encouragement, went on to help found Northwestern's business school. Meantime Bob was recalled to active duty for the Korean conflict, which found him helping to run the Port of New York at the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. While in this position, and later after he joined Bell Telephone Laboratories, he studied at NYU for his master's degree and doctorate in business with his faculty mentor Peter Drucker. At Bell Labs, and later AT&T, he ran treasury and financial operations for both, and retired from AT&T after 25 years. Bob remained in the Navy Reserves until his retirement as a Captain in 1974.
Later he joined Shearson Lehman American Express to help the former Bell operating companies with their nascent finances. During this time he and his wife developed a growing affection for Maine, and acquired a condo, and later a home here.
After retirement he donated his time to the Small Business Development Center at USM, as well as the First Parish Church of Gorham and the Gorham Historical Society. Bob and Mary Beth, his beloved wife of 69 years, had one child, Robert, and were very active in community affairs, where their outgoing, kind personalities won them many lasting friendships. They were often with their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, who shared in their mutual love and benefitted from his kindness and wisdom.
Bob was preceded in death by his parents. In addition to his wife, Mary Beth, he is survived by son Robert and his wife Anita of Gorham; grandson Robert Petitt of Boston, and granddaughter Katherine Soto and her husband Orlando of Salem, Mass. He is also survived by sisters, Dorothy Petitt, Lois DeMersseman, and Joy Dahlberg; as well as several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at a spring interment.
In lieu of flowers, donations should be made in care of the Portland Salvation Army.
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram from Feb. 3 to Feb. 4, 2013
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