I awoke this morning to learn some sad news: Clarence Petty died yesterday at his son’s home in Canton. He was 104.
Readers of the Explorer got to know Clarence well through the magazine’s “Questions for Clarence” column. He was a passionate advocate of protecting the Adirondack Park’s natural resources.
For the first few years of his childhood, Clarence lived in a cabin on Forest Preserve land on Upper Saranac Lake. His family later moved into a house in Coreys, a tiny settlement on Stony Creek Ponds. As a boy, he hunted and trapped in the neighboring woods.
Clarence graduated from Saranac Lake High School and the state College of Forestry (now the College of Environmental Science and Forestry) in Syracuse. During the Depression, he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Later, he went to work for the state Conservation Department and the Adirondack Park Agency.
The APA relied on Clarence’s field work to decide which tracts in the Park should be classified as Wilderness, where motorized use is banned. Clarence also helped conduct the studies that led to the classification of rivers in the Park as Wild, Scenic, or Recreational.
In environmental circles, Clarence was a hero for his defense of wilderness–a philosophy that often put him at odds with other Adirondackers.
Clarence also was a pilot. During World War II, he flew transport missions. Later, he served as the state pilot for Governor Averell Harriman. He gave flying lessons in Canton until he was 94.
You can read about Clarence’s fascinating and productive life in The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty, a biography written by Christopher Angus and published by Syracuse University Press.
Clarence never lost his sense of humor. When he turned 104, I asked him if he celebrated. “Sure, I went to sleep,” he replied. “There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep.”
Sleep well, Clarence.