Man who died in scooter accident remembered as free spirit
Lonnie Petry loved being alive, despite personal challenges he struggled to overcome. The handyman, dog lover and father of two children enjoyed hiking, hunting, creating and making it up as he went along, friends and family members say.
“He was a free spirit, somebody who really knew how to live life to its fullest,” his daughter, Sara Petry, said of her father, who died in a motor scooter accident May 6 in Santa Fe.
A native Santa Fean, Petry spent years working in the family business, A-1 Signs, and later opened and operated Handy Dandy Handyman Helpers.
“He had a good eye for landscaping, for making something beautiful and different,” Sara Petry said. Whenever her dad drove friends of family members by a wall, sign or other work that he created, he would point it out and say, “I made that.”
Petry, 51, attended Santa Fe High School, where he met his future wife, Andrea. The two earned their GED diplomas at the Santa Fe Community College.
An active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Petry was seen as permanently attached to a blue heeler dog named Pyro that Lonnie rescued from a death sentence after the dog had savagely attacked other canines.
Over time, Petry trained the dog to be obedient and brought Pyro with him everywhere. The dog liked beef jerky and was renowned for bringing bagged lunches in its mouth to Petry’s children. The dog was hit by a car and died late last year, and a heartbroken Petry had recently adopted another blue heeler, McKenzie.
But the ever-smiling handyman fought addiction. Andrea “Lucy” Petry said it may have been because he suffered from survivor’s guilt after a drunken driver killed his brother Leo — who, Andrea and Sara Petry said, had managed to push Lonnie out of the way of the oncoming car when they were children.
That tragedy occurred in December 1974, shortly before the holiday season, Andrea Petry said.
“That really affected his entire life,” she said. “To go through life carrying that burden … without finding some way to cope was difficult for him.”
That dependency sometimes led Petry to butt heads with the law. An online search of court records indicates that since 2010, he was charged four times with either public intoxication or driving under the influence, most recently in September. Three of those charges were dismissed, though he was convicted on the first charge and sentenced to community service and probation.
Still, Andrea Petry prefers to recall the man who would decide on the spur of the moment to take the family fishing or hiking — which left them “scrambling to get ready to go,” she said.
Though the couple divorced after 15 years of marriage, they remained good friends, she said, and he remained devoted to his children and a granddaughter, Maya.
“There were a lot of people who looked down on him, but he never looked down on anybody,” Andrea Petry said.
Lonnie Petry’s zest for life may have been driven in part by his battles with addiction, son Leo Petry said.
“He had a hard time getting over that, but then he would be clean and be good for a long period of time, and he’d try his hardest to prove he was breaking free by living life happy,” he said.
The family plans a 10:30 a.m. Friday funeral service for Lonnie Petry at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 410 Rodeo Road, followed by a graveside memorial at noon at Rosario Cemetery, 499 N. Guadalupe St.