Fred Petrick, 63, musician, collector, father

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Frederick Franklin Petrick, a writer, collector, father and musician whose dulcimer playing often could be heard serenading the William Beye School neighborhood from his porch across the street, has died after a three-year fight against colon cancer.

Petrick, born in Oak Park in 1947 at West Suburban Medical Center, died at his home on May 12 just blocks away from that same hospital. He was 63. No services were held.

Petrick made his living as a marketing writer for more than 20 years, most recently as a blogger, with the firm Robinson & Maites in Chicago.

A man of wry wit, Petrick often entertained family and friends with his humor.

He was a frequent cartoonist when his three children were younger — although much of his work couldn't be published today for lack of political correctness.

His wife of 42 years, Jayne, a preschool teacher at Pilgrim Nursery School, recalled one that might pass muster.

"The little kid with a pinwheel hat on his head, saying 'Remember kids, don't swallow your bubble gum,' and there's a man on the toilet and there's this giant bubble under him."

An imposing man with a big, booming voice, Petrick used his bearing to amuse the kids.

"We have a lot of memories of him in the water," his daughter Jessie said. "He would do his 'Mighty King Neptune' act, where he'd come out and he'd smash on the water, and the water would go flying ... and then we'd all splash each other and if we were in a hotel pool, we'd scare everyone away."

He had a theory of the kids' collective intelligence, too.

"He said for every additional child, it got halved. So if you had 10 kids, you were in big trouble," Jayne remembered.

Petrick was also a passionate collector of coins, musical instruments, and other images.

"It was like having a piece of history that you could hold," Jayne remembered of his coin collection.

Though he sold most of his coin collection before his death, he kept some he thought his kids would want — including a coin issued in the 18th Century under Emperor Peter I of Russia, indicating the bearer had paid a tax for the right to wear a beard.

"My Russian history teacher in college was very impressed that my family had a beard tax token," Jessie remembered fondly.

The hammer dulcimers he often played from the front porch of his family's home on Cuyler Avenue were both purchased and, later, hand-made.

"He made many dulcimers," Jayne said, "And I was very patient since he bent the wood in the bathtub, which meant I didn't have the use of it for sometimes quite a while."

His son Mike said his father was "curious in every way," something reflected in frequent trips to the library. "He was always looking for something that he had never heard of before."

Jayne says Fred fought colon cancer for three years and through multiple surgeries. His oncologist said he endured one chemo treatment longer than any other patient she'd had. But when the treatment failed to work, Fred entered about six weeks of hospice at home.

Petrick is survived by his wife Jayne (nee Kiddie); daughters Ellen Petrick (married to Nick Novosel) of Westchester, head of personal training at the Oak Park Tennis and Fitness Centre, and Jessie Petrick (married to Charlie Sweitzer) of Pasadena, Calif., artist and knitting teacher; his son Mike Petrick of Oak Park, personal trainer at Oak Park Tennis and Fitness Centre and teacher's aide at Pilgrim Nursery School; and his brother Richard Petrick of Oak Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations in Fred Petrick's memory be made to Pilgrim Nursery School, 460 Lake St., Oak Park, Ill. 60302, for its music enrichment fund.

Reader Comments

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Sarah Guerin  

Posted: June 11th, 2011 6:27 PM

I grew up down the street from the Petrick family and would often hear the sound of Mr. Petrick's dulcimers. The sound always added to the atmosphere of beautiful summer evenings and would reverberate in the Beye schoolyard. I'm so sorry for their loss having lost my mom to the same horrific disease.

Dan Ferguson from West Lafayette, IN  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 10:22 PM

Fred was a great neighbor and friend, a man of many talents and his dulcimer playing was always the higlight of our many days living next door. Fred loved his family and enriched the neighborhood and our lives. I imagine he will now be playing dulcimers even more often.

Vicki Frederick from Streamwood, IL  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 4:21 PM

Miss you so much, Fred! I hope you are in a better place, laughing at us mortals.

Ellen Stefanic Ross from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 6:57 AM

A fine man, a great father, a neat Beye parent. He is remembered with great fondness. So sorry for the family's loss, and Oak Park's.

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