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James "Pa" Winter Petty
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James "Pa" Winter Petty

Oct 25, 1948 Mar 31, 2020

Early in the morning of Tuesday March 31, 2020, you may have heard the sounds of celebration as Heaven welcomed home one of their beloved sons and greatest champions, James Winter Petty.

After a valiant 14 ½ year battle with the aftereffects of open-heart surgery and MRSA, Jim, through the help of countless incredible nurses, doctors and staff at LDS Hospital, IHC, U Health, and South Mountain Dialysis, and many dear friends, family, and most of all, Mary Ellen Gleason Petty, his eternal companion, caregiver and advocate, fighting the good fight with him, was able to hold to life until passing at the University of Utah Hospital on the morning of Jim and Mary’s 48th Wedding Anniversary.

That morning he joyously reunited with his parents Bob & Medalou Petty, his older sister Kathleen, and was greeted by countless ancestors and brothers and sisters on that side of the veil, to whom he had dedicated his life serving both as a full-time professional genealogist and in family history and temple service as a true disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. Together, they now continue the work to finish a record worthy of all acceptation.

Whether you called him James or Jimmy, PC or Jim, Papa or Pa, or Grandpa or Grampy, he was truly one of the kindest and gentlest men you ever knew. He saw everyone through the eyes of love. For those closest to him, he provided the warmest hugs and was a perfect example of love, patience, humor, and devotion, with a faithful testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He never spoke an unkind word about another person, he was without guile, and was full of an unyielding hope and optimism for life. In fact, in his final moments of consciousness, he comforted those caring for him with his last words, “I feel great!”

While he was not one to seek the spotlight, he had a sharp wit and was always on the ready with what could only be described as “a Pa joke”! He loved to wear his BYU hoodie to his U medical appointments and when asked why, he would point to the big bold name of Brigham Young and say, “I am wearing this in honor of the man who founded the U.” This is pure-hearted Jim!

Born October 25, 1948 in Fresno California to Robert & Medalou Winter Petty, Jim was the 2nd of 6 children. As his older sister Kathleen lived only 3 short days, Jim had the privilege and responsibility in this life of being the eldest to his incredible younger siblings, Cynthia (Tom) Barkume, Douglas (Heidi) Petty, Janice (Steve) Bagley, and Deborah (Brad) Nielsen. He adored each of them, and they remember him as the kindest and best big brother one could have.

Raised in Provo, Utah, along with his family and friends in the Park Ward, Jim loved reading, puzzles, camping, fishing, and Scouting, and was a proud Eagle Scout. Even as a youth he was very bright and kind. A gifted artist, Jim received the State of Utah’s highest award for a high school artist at his beloved B.Y. High. Self-taught in calligraphy and penmanship, his signature was always immaculate! Jim served a full-time mission in Florida for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1967-69.

Upon returning home, Jim enrolled at Brigham Young University where he earned two degrees, in History and Genealogy Technology. A loyal fan of BYU sports, Jim loved his Cougars, and was “True Blue” through and through.

While at BYU, Jim’s career as a Professional Genealogist began and would span more than 50 years. Early in his profession he worked for the Genealogical Society of Utah identifying and securing countless genealogical records from around the country and world. He helped establish professional standards, and after he began his own research firm, Heirlines Family History & Genealogy, he provided an example and leadership in professional genealogy. While Jim was a humble and unassuming man, he was an accomplished genealogist, serving thousands of clients from all walks of life, all races and ethnicities, the poor and the prominent, including U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents, governors and congressmen, celebrities and business moguls, Prophets and Apostles of the Church, friends and family, and so many more.

Jim was known by his peers as one who had a tremendous wealth of historical knowledge and was a valued mentor and great innovator in genealogical research. He was an expert witness, college professor, noted speaker, and author of numerous genealogical publications and thousands of client reports of findings. He received both recognition and accolades for his considerable contributions to the genealogy community, including his breakthrough discoveries in 17th Century Colonial Virginia Headright Research, Black Slavery Emancipation Research in the Northern States and Baptisms for the Dead Records.

While Jim was always gracious for any recognition he received, what truly motivated him and mattered most in his work, was knowing he was serving his Father in Heaven in helping to unite families across the veil and throughout time. His most cherished moments of recognition were the sacred and special experiences he shared with the ancestors he served in the Temples of our Lord.

At BYU, with the help of his lifelong friend, and later best man, Galen Updike, Jim met and fell in love with Mary Ellen Gleason at The Corner in the original Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Nov. 20, 1969. After nearly three years of dating and college together, on March 31, 1972, they were the first living couple both married and sealed for time and all eternity in the Provo Utah Temple. The following year they welcomed their first descendant, the original JimR, as they began growing their own PettyPride family tree.

Jim loved his children dearly and had a special relationship with each of them. He instilled in them a love for history, reading, art, comics, board games, riddles, and puzzles. He was a Boggle and Scrabble master and had no equal in Pictionary. From his youth and on, he was a walking encyclopedia and enjoyed trivia of every sort. He played tickle games and rough housed. He was a source of wisdom, calm, and comfort in the storms of life.

Jim was the Head of the “PettyPride” and is survived by Mary, his wife and best friend, collaborator, and puzzle-solving partner. They are the ancestors to their five children: James Robert (Julie) Petty, Melissa Rosemary Petty (Stathi) Floor, John Niels (Stephanie) Petty, Thomas Russell Petty, and William Lewis Winter (Emily) Petty, and 13 grandchildren: Katie, Mikey, Megan, and Luke Petty; TJ Patton, Alex and Sam Floor; Greg, Ellie, and Rosie Petty; Gil, Roman, and Alice Petty. Jim is also survived by countless others who looked to him as an example of a true man and father figure in their lives. Pa loved you all and knew you all loved him.

On April 2, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, in an intimate gathering of 10 people (his wife, his five children, and four living siblings) and hosts of angels, Jim was celebrated and laid to rest next to his parents at the Eastlawn Memorial Cemetery in Provo, Utah through the services of the McDougal Funeral Home. We will hold a celebration of Jim’s life at a later date with friends, family, and his loved ones.


Graveside Service

Eastlawn Memorial Hills

Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

4800 N 650 E
Provo, UT 84061

Personal Information

Fresno, CA US
Cause of Death
Influenza and Pneumonia
Salt Lake City, UT US
Worked For
Heirlines Family History & Genealogy
Professional Genealogist
Religion and Beliefs
Latter-day Saint
Brigham Young University

Life Story Info

Post Date
May 16, 2020
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