Photo: Longtime Elburn resident Carrie Petrie (pictured with her daughter, Cara, and granddaughter, Abby) passed away on Jan. 9. Petrie was involved with the Elburn American Legion’s Women’s Auxiliary, played an active role in the Elburn Memorial Day ceremony for many years and helped run the Elburn Community Blood Drive. Her absence has been felt by many in the community. Photo submitted by Cara Bartel to email@example.com
Community mourns passing of longtime Elburn resident
ELBURN—The passing of lifelong resident Carrie Petrie on Jan. 9 has left a hole in the community of Elburn.
“You never replace someone like Carrie,” Village President Dave Anderson said. “You can get someone to take over her responsibilities, but you never replace her. Carrie’s going to be missed.”
Anderson said his first experience with Petrie was years ago when he and a date stopped in at Robert’s Drive-In in Geneva to get a bite to eat. The restaurant was two-thirds full, and Petrie was not only the waitress who took their order and served them, but the cook who made their meal, as well as the cashier who took their money.
That take-charge, “let’s get it done” kind of attitude has defined her throughout her life, whether she was helping out on the family farm, placing flags on the graves of the veterans for Memorial Day, cooking spaghetti dinners at the American Legion, or managing the Elburn Community Blood Drive every year.
Carrie was the oldest girl in her family. According to her sister Cecelia, Carrie could run a tractor at an early age. During the war, when so many of the men were overseas, she said Carrie was a big help around the family farm. She could drive the horses as well as a set of mules.
“Dad said she was the best hired man he ever had,” Cecelia said.
Carrie, like many of the young girls in her day, wrote to the soldiers fighting overseas during World War II to keep them from being lonely. Grover Petrie from Sycamore was her choice of a pen pal because she thought he had nice handwriting.
When Grover came home from the war, and he and Carrie met, courted and married. They remained committed to caring for the men and women who had served their country.
Grover joined the Elburn American Legion, and Carrie became a charter member of the Women’s Auxiliary. She and the other wives were actively involved in the current American Legion building.
“That kitchen didn’t magically appear,” said Kay Swift, the Petrie’s neighbor. “There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into that building. The ladies were there right beside the men, holding lunches and catering dinners to raise the money.”
The Legion’s spaghetti dinners featuring Carrie’s “private (sauce) recipe,” became an annual event. Swift, who helped out with the dinners, said Carrie had everything so well organized, it didn’t seem to be such a big chore.
Carrie had initially set up the kitchen with a place for everything and everything in its place. Village attorney and Vietnam veteran Bob Britz said that Carrie held everything together.
“I don’t think she was ever in the service, but she would have made a good drill Sergeant,” he said with a laugh.
Together with Britz, Carrie played an active role in the Elburn Memorial Day ceremony for many years. Carrie would read the names of each veteran who had passed away, as well as reciting the poem “Flanders Field” each year. Until several years ago, when the Boy Scouts took over the job, Carrie and a crew of volunteers during the week prior to the service would place flags at the gravesite of every veteran buried in Elburn.
Her dedication and service to veterans included weekly trips to Elgin Mental Health Center, where the 30 or so veterans there would receive packets of gum, cookies, hot chocolate or coffee and other treats that Carrie and other Legion members assembled.
She always felt that no matter what their circumstances were, the veterans deserved the respect and gratitude for the service they gave to their country, Kay Swift said.
“She was a very good motivator,” said Swift, who for the past eight years had helped Carrie run the Elburn Community Blood Drive.
Swift said that when she could no longer donate blood due to a heart condition, she asked Carrie what she could do instead.
“Have I got a job for you,” Carrie responded. And Swift became the blood drive coordinator.
Helen Johnson has known Carrie and her sisters since they were little girls. She said her dad would take the “Gum girls” along with them to basketball games and county fairs, and to Maple Park to make cider.
When Carrie married Grover, they were the first ones to travel to Hackensack, Minn., for their honeymoon, Johnson said. That first trip was the beginning of 40 years of summer fun with family and friends.
“We all cooked together and the guys went fishing,” Johnson said.
Carrie continued to make the drive up to their cabin after Grover passed away. As recently as this past summer, she made the long trip herself, even though her son, Neal, had also passed away, and it was getting harder for her to get in and out of her car.
On her way home, Carrie met her sister Cecelia and her husband Norbert Lund for dinner. Cecelia recalled the numerous nice things that Carrie has done for others.
She used to pick up Cecelia’s daughters and drive them to work at the restaurant in Wasco where she worked, so they could experience what it was like to have a real job. They were able to work their way through college, she said.
“We’re all very proud of her, and all her years of hard work and dedication,” Cecelia said.