After 94 years of a life well lived, Luther Eric (L.E.) Petty died peacefully on May 1, 2020, at his home in Cypress, Texas. After a period of failing health, he moved from this world to the next while surrounded by loved ones.
L.E. was born on October 20, 1925 in Marquez, Texas, to Finis Eric Petty and Vesta Una Petty, longtime ranchers and merchants in the area. He was the oldest of three, eventually joined by younger brother, Alfred Marion (A.M.), and younger sister, Una. His formative years were spent working in both family trades; he came to manage cattle on the farm and shelves at the family store.
Both naturally bright and decidedly studious, L.E. graduated valedictorian from Marquez High School in 1943. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and trained in Aviation Electronics during WWII, sparking an enduring interest in the way things work. This curiosity would remain a theme throughout his prolific career and his post-career pastime of constant tinkering.
Following his Naval service, L.E. found work with a seismic survey team in Wyoming. While stepping over rattlesnakes proved entertaining, he soon decided to enroll in an Electrical Engineering program and returned to Louisiana where he’d completed Naval training several years prior. In 1949, he graduated from the Southwestern Louisiana Institute just as companies had ceased hiring after the war. He took a role teaching math in Levelland, Texas, instead – a move that proved wonderfully fruitful.
While in Levelland, L.E. met Doris Jean Taylor (Jean) through his cousin, Jean’s sister-in-law. “I said, ‘I’m gonna marry that man sitting right over there’,” Jean recalled whenever retelling the moment she first saw L.E. They were married at her parents’ home in Levelland on December 12, 1953. By that time, L.E. had started a role in Chemical Engineering with Amoco Production Company (then, Standolind Oil & Gas) and it took them far from the arid West Texas landscape to locations across the country and for him, across the globe.
Jean and L.E. built a life and a family together. They welcomed their three children, Steven, Scott, and Janet – each born in a different city. Eventually, L.E.’s job brought he and Jean back to Texas where they resided in the Woodlands and then settled in Cypress, the home where they would adore and entertain their grandchildren. Jean lived until 1994, after many years fighting cancer.
Throughout his 34-year tenure at Amoco, L.E. was recognized as a leader in his field and held several patents. After designing and overseeing the construction of chemical processing plants around the world, L.E. retired from Amoco in 1986. He proudly and obstinately continued work as a contractor well into retirement.
Though he genuinely loved his craft, he loved with equal or greater passion to spend time at home, especially with family. He spent countless hours under the hood of his own or one of his children’s cars, making frequent trips to his ranch in Marquez, eating fried chicken, even square dancing. Things he did not spend time on, included: monitoring his sodium intake, watching TV, complaining, and trimming his iconically long fingernails.
L.E. was a committed husband, a devoted father, and a doting grandfather. He is described by his family as quietly creative and unassumingly brilliant. He was slow to offer unsolicited advice and quick to offer help to anyone in need. His words were steady and his thoughts well-considered and considerate. His dry wit and charm could be counted on and his generous laugh made the world a softer, more beautiful place to be. He was quick to welcome those he loved with a warm embrace, a twinkle in his eye, and his signature compliment: “Well, you sure are looking good!”.
In 2010, L.E. married Emma Lee Thomas, also from Marquez. They came to reside in Cypress where they frequently entertained both their families. Emma was a steadfast, caring, and loving companion through L.E.’s final years.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Finis and Vesta; his brother, Alfred Marion (A.M); and, his first wife, Jean.
He is survived by his wife of ten years, Emma Lee; his three children with Jean: Steven (Jeannie) Petty of Clear Lake, Scott Petty of Houston, and Janet (Stewart) Angst of Cypress; and, Emma’s children: David (Linda) Thomas of Texas City and Denise Thomas of La Marque. He is survived by nine grandchildren: Trisha (David) West, Whitney (Stephen) Johnson, Erica Petty, Steven (Melissa) Petty, Elisha (Michael) Angus, Jeremy Petty, Taylor Angst, Marshall Angst, and Danielle Angst. He is survived by two great-grandchildren: Granger Petty and Layla West. He is survived by Emma’s five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
He is also survived by his sister, Una Jones of Georgetown.
L.E. will return to Marquez where his body will rest next to his first wife Jean in the hometown he so dearly loved. Graveside services for Luther Petty were held on Saturday, May 9, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. at Marquez Cemetery. Wesley Henson officiated.
Due to current health conditions a formal celebration of his life will be held at a later time.
L.E was always interested in maintaining the health of his home town, thus in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in L.E.’s name to the Marquez Cemetery Association,438 N Trinity St, Marquez, TX 77865.