Home: Salt Lake City, Utah
Death Date: December 29, 2017
Birthdate: January 25, 1936
Place Of Birth: Idaho Falls, Idaho
With great sorrow we say goodbye to James Arthur Pett, Jr. - "Tony" to his family and assorted friends, "Art" to friends and colleagues, "Baba" to his grandchildren - who passed away on December 29, 2017. James Arthur Pett, Jr. was born on January 25, 1936 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, the eldest son of Ethelyn Cannon Pett and James Arthur Pett. With his family as a boy he moved to Salt Lake City, his parents' hometown. He grew up on 12th East, attending Wasatch Elementary, Bryant Junior High, and East High School, where he served as editor of the school paper.
Art knew from a young age that he wanted to become an architect; it's rumored he designed a house for his 7th-grade teacher. At around age twelve his photo appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune after an architect's convention in Salt Lake; he was shown standing next to a distinguished architect, and the heading read "Youngest and Oldest Architects Attend Meeting." Another newspaper article showed a pre-teen Art winning a city-wide competition to design a city building; a university professor took second place. Then he won it again two years later.
Art was called through his growing Catholic faith to join the Church, which led him to enter, briefly, the community of Trappist monks in Huntsville, Utah. To the relief of his children and grandchildren, he had a change of heart and chose instead to resume his architectural career, though his faith would remain central to his life.
He attended Harvard, graduated in architecture from the University of Utah, and then moved to New York City in the mid-60s, where his sister Jane lived. He arrived in their dad's old aqua Chevy Delray, which they immediately dubbed "The Surf Delray." It held all Art's worldly possessions and country boy that he was, he parked it on the street and everything was stolen. Because he was scheduled for job interviews, he quickly found a three-piece, shiny, wash-and-wear suit which no doubt helped him land a job at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, a top firm. Art enjoyed that stretch of his life, which included meeting and marrying Marge, who was a close friend of Jane's. After the couple lived in New York they moved to Philadelphia, where their son Mark was born.
Art earned his Master's degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and studied with Louis Kahn, then worked for several firms including Venturi & Rauch. The family moved to Santa Fe, where Una was born, and then to Salt Lake City in 1976, where Art became a partner in his own firm, Zabriskie and Pett Architects. Later he joined Brixen & Christopher Architects where he was a partner until he retired.
Many friends have remarked on what a caring and gentle person Art was, and true to his beliefs. He loved hiking and the outdoors; he spent summers in his youth working in Brighton and later could be found exploring the foothills and mountains around Salt Lake with his and Marge's Rhodesian Ridgebacks. While he loved classical music, especially piano and chamber music, he also adored Rodgers and Hart, Fats Waller, and Judy Garland, among others. He was a passionate reader, tackling biographies and history and architecture books, and a lifelong student of language, poetry, literature, culture, and history. He loved discussing points of religion and philosophy with friends right until the end of his life. He made sure people knew he was born in Idaho Falls and wasn't a native Utahn, though he was a descendant of Brigham Young and George Q. Cannon. He was a man of habit, and could be found every morning at a coffee shop sipping his coffee and reading or writing, and became a beloved patron. Not known for his athleticism, in his younger years he took to the tennis court with his T-2000 and later the golf course as well, with an unconventional yet effective style. He loved cars, and could be seen driving round Salt Lake in his BMW Z3, wearing his signature suspenders, driving gloves, and white-rimmed glasses. He drove slowly, he said, because he enjoyed it so much and wanted to savor it.
Others of Art's passions could seem incongruous to even his closest family: Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; classic Hollywood films; Sandra Bullock; Vogue; Peanuts; poetry; eating exotic meats; rooting for the underdog. An interesting fellow politically, despite his conservative religious views he voted for Adlai Stephenson and Dick Gregory for President.
Art was deeply devoted to his faith and to the congregations of which he was a part, including the Cathedral of the Madeleine where he was a long-time parishioner and very active in their programs. His roles included communion minister and religious education teacher, and he served lunches to the homeless. Later he became an active and valued member of St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center's Dominican Laity.
Art is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Marge (Marjorie Gaysunas Pett); his sister Jane Semmel (Ken, deceased) and brother Stephen Willard Pett (Clare Cardinal); his children Mark Ivan Pett and Una Ethelyn Pett (Lou); three gorgeous grandchildren, Magnolia, Cleo, and Luca; nieces and nephews whom he loved; and dear friends.
Friends and family are welcome to a celebration of Art's life, which will be held on Friday, January 19, 2018 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Starks Funeral Parlor, 3651 South 900 East, Salt Lake City, Utah, with a recitation of the Holy Rosary at 5:30 pm. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 11am at the Newman Center in Salt Lake City, 170 University Street E. Burial in the family's plot will take place at the Salt Lake City cemetery following the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to one of Art's favorite charities - The Road Home, Doctors Without Borders, the Good Samaritan Program at the Cathedral of the Madeleine - or the charity of your choice. The family wishes to thank the caregivers at St. Joseph's Villa for their compassion and attention over the past year.