The Riverbank community is mourning the loss of local business owner, Chamber of Commerce member, community activist, and friend, Scott Pettit.
Early morning Thursday, Aug. 8, authorities arrived at a fire at the Modesto home of Pettit and his wife Janet and found the couple deceased. (See related story for additional information).
Most people in Riverbank know the name Scott Pettit because he organized or assisted with several community events and touched many lives with his Karate for Kids School. He also hosted a variety of self-defense and ‘stranger danger’ classes as part of his business, but his reach went far beyond the walls of his Santa Fe shop.
“You couldn’t do much in the city without Scott Pettit being a part of it,” said Mayor Richard O’Brien. “He really knew how to bring the community together.”
Among many of the things that Pettit did, O’Brien explained, he organized the VIP Run, the downtown Blues and Bibs, and for many years was the emcee at the Christmas parade.
This year’s Wednesday Night Out event in July almost got canceled until Pettit donated funds that allowed the city to proceed with the gatherings.
“He was a good community member but also a good friend,” said O’Brien. “He and his wife were a great couple.”
O’Brien stated that Pettit helped start the Beyond Earth Day locally and was always willing to step right up and help the community.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” said O’Brien. “He was Riverbank’s biggest cheerleader.”
City Manager Jill Anderson expressed with great sadness that this is a big loss to the community.
“He had a real love for the community,” said Anderson. “He brought people together and donated his time, money, or equipment for community events.”
Pettit was also known for helping the Riverbank Recreation Department with the Halloween Haunted Hayride.
“On behalf of the city of Riverbank, we are all deeply saddened over the loss of Scott Pettit and what he meant to the community,” stated Anderson.
Director of Parks and Recreation Sue Fitzpatrick and that department worked closely with Pettit for the past 10 years on a number of city events.
“We are very sad about what happened and it is weighing heavy on my mind,” said Fitzpatrick. “It will not be the same without him.”
Pettit was also involved with the Christmas festival and Fitzpatrick expressed that he was always excited about it.
“Scott was a very good, giving person and he loved Riverbank,” said Fitzpatrick. “Coming through downtown to go to work will not be the same without Scott's presence.”
Councilmember Cal Campbell got to know Pettit a little better during the time he ran for office.
“What I admired about Scott was that he was polite, but wasn’t afraid to speak his mind,” said Campbell. “I had the most respect for him.”
Pettit was responsible for organizing the Relay For Life in Riverbank and was also involved in the Riverbank Cares Food and Toy Drive.
His Karate for Kids building would be filled with people helping and a line of kids with their families waiting to get a bag of toys for the holiday.
“He was committed to make the community better,” said Campbell. “He will be missed dearly.”
Pettit has several friends around town and Daryl Daniel, owner of Sno-White Drive-In, was one of them.
“I will really miss him, he was my close friend, always helping me,” said Daniel. “He was my true friend.”
Fellow Riverbank Citizen of the Year, Ric McGinnis who won in 2010 and Pettit, who won in 2007, got to know each other through their community action projects.
McGinnis also worked with him on Chamber events and the Christmas Festival for the past several years.
“He’s been such a fixture in the fabric of Riverbank, he’s impossible to replace, but the results of his service to the community will last,” stated McGinnis.
Scott McRitchie worked with Pettit very closely for several years on numerous city events like loading the people into the carts at the Halloween Hayride event, the first Relay For Life, and the Christmas Parade among others.
“He didn’t even live in Riverbank, he lived in Modesto but this was his adopted city,” said McRitchie. “This is a sad state of affairs.”
For Riverbank Cares, McRitchie would handle the food and Pettit handled the toys.
“He (Pettit) provided the sound system for several events and purchased hot chocolate and donuts for Riverbank Cares out of his own pocket,” said McRitchie. “He was a take charge type guy and always had ideas.”
The sentiment throughout the community has generally been the same no matter where you go: that Pettit loved the Riverbank community, the loss is huge, and he will be greatly missed by many.