Dr. Martin (Michael) Petith of Carbondale passed away on Friday January 19, 2018 at Carbondale Memorial Hospital after a brief illness. He was born February 19, 1944 in Wernigerode, Germany, a picturesque German city nestled in the Harz Mountains. As this area was quickly becoming East Germany, his family fled over the east/west border to escape Stalin’s advance and settled in Seckenheim, West Germany, where his father established a successful family pediatric practice. Dr. Petith married Jean Marie Stratman in 1966 in Freiburg, where they met during his medical school training. The family moved to Madison, WI in 1970 where Dr. Petith completed a residency at the Veterans Administration Hospital. After completing another VA residency in Iowa City, IA, the family moved to Carbondale, IL, where Dr. Petith worked for over 32 years at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Marion, IL. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve for over 20 years and was attached to the 44th General Hospital Unit based in Madison, WI, attaining the rank of Captain. Michael (a.k.a. Dr. Mike) greatly appreciated all the wonderful friends he made at the VA (both coworkers and patients) and in the service.
In addition to his work at the VA, he also worked with the S.I.U. Medical School, instructing medical students on best practices in the field of gastroenterology, and spent some of his last moments on earth helping to diagnose his own condition and providing instructional comments! (Many thanks to the hardworking and talented staff in Carbondale’s Memorial Hospital ICU ward for their hard work, talent and professionalism.) Dr. Petith authored a variety of medical instructional materials and was an early adopter of laparoscopy; a technology that has made many surgeries and procedures much easier and less invasive, ultimately resulting in better patient outcomes. Dr. Petith was an enthusiastic supporter of the arts who enjoyed attending theatre and classical music events at SIU, and also a movie buff, amateur painter and architect. He had a specific and profound interest in building bridges. He was an accomplished pianist, having studied in Germany with his celebrated uncle Rudolf. Dr. Petith could often be heard unwinding on evenings and weekends as he played selections from his extensive repertoire of traditional classical pieces.
Though he loved his upbringing in Seckenheim, which afforded great opportunities to experience nature in Germany’s vast national forest network, he became a naturalized American citizen and stayed permanently in the States. He was thrilled to be able to own acreage in the Shawnee National Forest near Pomona, where he spent many weekends enjoying rock formations and creating an elaborate trail system. He enjoyed traveling overseas to visit his large German family and to participate in Seckenheim school reunions, and greatly enjoyed telling stories of his exploits to his Carbondale Stammtisch group. He also spent time as a volunteer translating Middle High German and High German texts for a variety of clients. Keeping in contact with his German heritage was extremely important to him throughout his life, but he was very proud of the freedoms and rights that he enjoyed as an American citizen. He was always concerned about the potential of democracies being exploited by Fascists as his own upbringing had been severely impacted by these groups.
He is survived by his 2 ex-wives, his 3 children: Ted Markus Petith (Elizabeth Tryon) of Madison, WI, Heike Petith Smith (Greg) of St. Petersburg, FL, and Karl Erik Petith (Signe Bishop) of Portland, OR; 5 grandchildren: Charmaine Tryon-Petith Swan; Clayton and Miles Tryon-Petith; and Benjamin and Spencer Smith; as well as his sister Regine Gattung-Petith of Edingen-Neckarhausen, Germany; his sister-in-law Gretel Petith of Seckenheim, and her children (Heiner, Barbara, Ursula and Hans) and many other German cousins, nieces and nephews, grand-nieces & -nephews; and his lifelong friend Sigrid Deussen of Bad Hamburg, Germany. He was preceded in death by his father Karl Heinrich Petith, his mother Gertrud Petith (nee’ Mueller), his brother Peter Petith and his niece Christine Petith Muench. Dr. Petith was cremated and a Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers/gifts, remembrances may be written at remembr.com/martin.michael.petith.