DU editor loses his battle with cancer

Petrie was first WON editor Staff Report

Woodruff, Wis. — Chuck Petrie, a longtime Wisconsin outdoors
writer and one of the leading waterfowl writers in the country,
died July 22 at the age of 60 of complications from acute leukemia
in a Woodruff hospital.

Petrie began working in Madison as a conservation warden for the
Wisconsin Conservation Department in 1974, which later became the
Department of Natural Resources. He moved to Horicon in 1975 to
work as a warden and then moved to Green Bay as a warden
supervisor, where he retired in 1984.

Following retirement, Petrie worked as an editor for Great Lakes
Sportsman Group, editing and writing five magazines. He helped to
develop the Willow Creek Press publishing company, which is now
located in Minocqua. He went on to become the first editor of
Wisconsin Outdoor News in 1993. Petrie and his brother, Tom, were
active in helping establish the Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators
Association for outdoors writers in the state. Chuck Petrie served
as president of WOCA in 1985-86.

In mid-1994, Petrie began working for Ducks Unlimited in
Memphis, Tenn. He was the executive editor of the Ducks Unlimited
(DU) magazine. He also developed DU’s successful book publishing
program.

Petrie had taken a disability retirement from DU this year, and
in July moved back to his beloved Wisconsin, living on the
Manitowish River outside of Boulder Junction. He passed away one
day before his 61st birthday.

Brother Tom Petrie, a fellow outdoors writer and publisher, said
Chuck “was a big brother, best friend, hunting and fishing pal,
author, writer, and professional colleague. That establishes my
bias when I state that Chuck Petrie ranks among the most eloquent
and effective nature and outdoors writers of our time. His words
were eloquent and convincing thanks to his passion for wild things,
while his scientific discipline made them accurate and credible.
The hundreds of thousands of readers familiar with his work would
not disagree with me.”

At Petrie’s memorial service in Manitowish Waters on July 26,
friends and family recognized Chuck Petrie as an avid waterfowler,
trout fisherman, family man, and artist with a pen. He especially
enjoyed waterfowling accompanied by a good dog.

Art DeLaurier worked for Petrie at DU in Memphis and recalled
Petrie as a superb editor, and fisherman who became interested in
fly-tying later in life. DeLaurier said Petrie had a degree in
geology from UW-Milwaukee and a master’s degree in wildlife
management.

Rev. Chips Paulson used the theme of the river of life,
demonstrating how outdoor interests constantly flowed through
Petrie’s life. Quoting author Norman MacLean in A River Runs
Through It, he read: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a
river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood
and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks
are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of
the words are theirs.”

Wisconsin Outdoor News publisher Glenn Meyer said Petrie helped
him get the newspaper started with the first issue in January of
1994. Petrie served as editor of WON for about five months before
he went to Ducks Unlimited.

“I remember how he hated to leave Wisconsin, but DU just kept
upping the ante until he had to accept. He was very helpful to us
getting Wisconsin Outdoor News off the ground because of his
extensive publishing experience,” Meyer said.

Wisconsin outdoors personality Dan Small knew Petrie well, first
as a writer when Petrie was working with Wisconsin Outdoor
Journal.

“I got to know Chuck well as a friend and colleague, as we
collaborated on several writing projects and hunted together
annually. Chuck appeared in several episodes of ‘Outdoor Wisconsin’
on hunts for pheasant, grouse, and Hungarian partridge,” Small
said. “Chuck had a quick wit and dry sense of humor. We taped our
first pheasant hunt for ‘Outdoor Wisconsin’ in 1984 with Chuck and
his brother, Tom, and their dogs. Tom had a black and white female
springer named Wink and Chuck had a huge black Lab named Baxter, a
dog made famous by John Troy’s cartoon series. The real Baxter was
every bit as rambunctious as Troy’s cartoon character. When he
ranged out too far and Chuck yelled his name, it sounded like he
was calling him something other than Baxter.”

On that hunt, a pheasant flew directly at the camera crew.
Petrie calmly waited for it to fly past them, then dropped it with
one shot. He then turned to the crew and said with a wry smile,
“Had you worried, there, didn’t I?”

Chris Dorsey, a Wisconsin writer now living in Littleton, Colo.,
offered the following thoughts at Petrie’s funeral: “How do you
know when you’ve lived your life well? For Chuck Petrie, a man
whose love of his family, the outdoors, and the written word became
him, it was clear that living life well was about an intersection
of family, the outdoors, and writing in his daily life. This
passion could be seen all around him in the photographs, artwork,
and the books with which he surrounded himself. He especially
collected books because he knew that they were a manifestation of
the mind and he forever sought the thoughts and words that captured
the way he felt about the natural world and the people moved by
it.

“He kept artifacts that reminded him of great places and moments
in time: a photograph of a salmon-choked stream in Alaska that he
shared with his wife Mary and his two daughters, Beth and Heidi … a
painting of a secluded northern Wisconsin lake that reminded him of
an unforgettable day that he enjoyed with his brother Tom when the
first flights of ringnecks arrived on a cold north wind … and a
copy of A River Runs Through It that, with every turn of the page,
took him back to his favorite Montana trout waters at the peak of
the mayfly hatch. It was a time when the fish took his flies the
way most anglers can only dream of them doing.

“For anyone who knew Chuck, the fire to be outdoors with rod or
gun, family or friend, burned brightly. Like legions of his
readers, if he wasn’t hunting or fishing he was thinking about
going. Because wild places so nurtured his soul and meant
everything to him, he devoted much of his life working to protect
them – even once facing armed poachers while working as a
conservation warden along the shores of Lake Michigan,” Dorsey
said.

Petrie is survived by his wife, Mary, daughters Beth and Heidi,
his son, Geoffrey, as well as his two brothers, Bill and Tom. The
family will establish a fund in honor of Chuck Petrie to provide
scholarships for students who plan to pursue writing or journalism
studies.

WON correspondent Tim Eisele, of Madison, contributed to this
article.

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