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John R. Petty

Company M-2

9 Apr 1939 - 29 Sep 2011

Place of Death: Atlanta, GA

Interment: West Point Cemetery

It is with great regret and sorrow that we must notify you of the death of our classmate, John Petty, on 29 September in Atlanta, GA, after a long and courageous battle with gastric cancer.

John is survived by his wife, Beryl; his son John and his wife Tracy; his daughter Page and her husband Jim; and grandchildren Thad, Reagan and Claire.

The family will receive friends at 12:00 PM on Saturday, 8 October, at the Patterson Spring Hill Chapel Funeral Home, 1020 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, GA  30309. 

Funeral services will be held at 1:00 PM on Saturday, 8 October, at the Patterson Spring Hill Chapel Funeral Home.  Burial will be at West Point at a date to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, donations in John's memory may be made to the following organizations:

  • Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia, Inc., 386 Lanier Street NW, Suite A-6, Atlanta, GA  30318

  • Hospice Atlanta, 1244 Park Vista Drive, Atlanta, GA  30319

Condolences may be sent to John's wife, Beryl at 1554 Country Squire Court, Decatur, GA  30033.

Well done, John.  Be thou at peace.


Class Memorial Pages\M-2 John Petty.pdf

John was a fine man and a great friend and I will miss him.  Please accept my deepest sympathy on your loss.

Gene Witherspoon '61

West Point Society of Atlanta

Memorial Service
John R. Petty '61 


John R. Petty '61 succumbed to the ravages of gastric cancer at 1930 hours on 29 September 2011 after an extremely long, courageous battle that began in 2004. 

A memorial service to celebrate John's life will be conducted on Saturday, 8 October at 1300 hours, at the H.M. Patterson Funeral Home; corner of 10th and Spring Street, Atlanta, GA.

A greeting reception will begin at Noon preceding the memorial service.

John will be buried at West Point in a family ceremony in the immediate future.  In the spring of 2012, after a memorial stone is erected, a public ceremony will be  conducted on a date to be announced.

John was an active member of the West Point Society of Atlanta for more than 25 years.  He served on the Board of Governors for many years and as President of the Society.  When not on the Board, he was still active on committees and projects.  Among his many accomplishments, he created the original job networking group in the early 1990's and the WPSA monthly Luncheon Program shortly thereafter.  John was one of the driving forces behind establishing the West Point Charitable Enterprises Association.  He was presented the Society's Distinguished Graduate Award in 2006; principally for years of outstanding service to society through his selfless management at the Atlanta Enterprise Center assisting the homeless and jobless to find a new, successful life.

John:  Your work is done; your course on Earth is run.  WELL DONE!  Be thou at peace. 

 West Point Society of Atlanta

John brought a wry sense of southern humor to M-2 in 1957.He worked hard to try and understand us yankees.What a great friend. He would do anything for any of us at his own speed. His career was marked with many successes in government and the private sector. We will miss him. Well done John.

Bill Tobin '61 M-2



Taps Memorial Article:

John R. Petty 1961

Cullum No. 23802-1961 | September 29, 2011 | Died in Atlanta, GA
Cremated. Interred in West Point Cemetery, NY

John Rife Petty entered West Point from Gainesville, GA, earning him the endearing reputation as “Rebel Representative” within the company. He was a true gentleman in every respect, never missing an opportunity to extend a helping hand or an encouraging word to friends in need. His work with the Protestant Chapel, both as a member of the Chapel Choir and as a Sunday School teacher, was the hallmark of his strong Christian belief and a forecast of the outstanding career that was ahead of him. 

Upon graduation, John got his Jump Wings and Ranger Tab and joined the 101st Airborne. In October 1962, while serving with the 101st Airborne, First Lieutenant Petty led a detachment of soldiers who helped support the integration of the University of Mississippi. Just weeks later, in middle of the night, John stood ready in southern Florida to parachute into Cuba if needed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

John left the Army in 1964 to earn an M.A. in international relations from the University of Tennessee and pursue a career in government service, joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966. Over a 15-year career with the CIA, John trained anti-communist forces in Laos from 1968 to 1973, served at the American Embassy in Singapore from 1975 to 1977, and served at various domestic assignments. 

In 1982 John took on the life-changing position of executive director of the Atlanta Enterprise Center (AEC), a dream struggling for money, personnel and leadership. The AEC became John’s raison d’etre, his very life soul and passion for existence. The AEC’s mission is to collect the homeless, the unemployed, “urban campers,” and get them off the streets, under a roof and hopefully employed. The only money it had was begged or granted to it by charitable organizations. John labored with this passion for 16 years, applying business experience, enthusiasm, leadership and, most importantly, his special brand of dedication to the organization. 

More than once, John didn’t draw salary to preserve cash flow. He wrote 20 to 30 grant requests per year, not all successful. But John had become a champion grant writer and never hesitated to offer his help to other social services organizations in Atlanta, GA. One aspect of the AEC’s success under John’s leadership was cost per successful client. During the period 1999–2004, the AEC turned out a successful client for about $1,600. The national average is $4,000. Also, during this same period, the AEC turned out a total of 1,500 success stories. 

John served as a past president and member of the board of the West Point Society of Atlanta and was awarded its Most Distinguished Graduate Award in 2006, principally for years of outstanding service through his leadership in the AEC. 

John was also a key figure in the creation of the West Point Charitable Enterprises of Atlanta or WPCEA, the 501(c)3 organization now known as the John R. Petty Sr. Foundation. Each year the John R. Petty Sr. Award is presented to recognize individuals within the society who represent the very best of those who support the society and the John R. Petty Sr. Foundation, all in honor of John Petty, whose name is synonymous with so many aspects of the West Point Society of Atlanta. 

In early September 2011, as one of his last professional efforts before passing, he reached out to the Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia (VEO), an organization attempting to develop a holistic approach to helping veterans in need. In the 2003–08 timeframe, Atlanta was facing a significant challenge, unable to assist homeless and helpless veterans who were on the street, missing proper identification, lacking basic needs of food and shelter but unable to connect effectively with the VA. It was to this need that the VEO was created in 2008. John became involved in 2011, helping the executive director of VEO to write a grant request to Home Depot for $250,000 to build a facility for temporary veteran housing. John developed the request without pay while undergoing treatment for cancer. John died just after the grant was awarded. The VEO organization has grown, succeeding beyond its own expectations, and is now being funded by some of the most prestigious organizations in Atlanta. To this day, the executive director and his VEO organization attribute much of its success to the selfless contributions of John Petty. 

A remark by a friend captures John’s spirit of perseverance: “He was a marvel of patience bordering on stubbornness; optimism without bound and an obvious love for the downtrodden that Christ would have admired.” 

Found among John’s personal notes written during his last few days battling cancer is the following statement: “My goal for the rest of my life is to serve my fellow human kind and to make a difference in as many lives as possible.” To the very end, John sought to serve others, and, even in these last days, John brought joy to his family and friends, making a difference in their lives to the very last. 

John R. Petty succumbed to the ravages of gastric cancer on September 29, 2011 after an extremely long, courageous battle that began in 2004. 

John Petty truly had a life “well lived.” It was a life that brought honor to himself, to his beloved family, to his alma mater, West Point, and to his Lord. 

In one statement of condolence a friend wrote: What a sweet and dedicated man; seeking no personal aggrandizement but following the highest ethics in living his life in service to others. He will be missed by so many. 

— Family, Friends and Classmates