Deacon Emeritus Grover Lee Pettes, Sr., 97, went to be with the Lord on Saturday, February 11, 2023. He was born December 10, 1925, in Las Cruces, NM to Robert Anderson (R.A.) and Ella Combs Pettes. Mr. Pettes attended Booker T. Washington School when it was segregated and taught all grades. Mrs. Clara Belle Williams was one of his teachers.
Mr. Pettes married Laura Wright in 1945. They were married for 68 years, until her passing. They have five children, Grover, Jr. (Gloria - deceased), Shirley Daniels, and Steven Pettes (Kerri) of Las Cruces; Delores Webb (Troy - deceased) of Midland, Texas; and Marilyn Hill (Sidney) of Corrales, NM.
Mr. Pettes has eight grandchildren - Paula Daniels Miller (Mark), El Paso, TX; Michelle Webb Lewis, Travares Webb, Steven Anderson Pettes (Stephanie), Dallas, TX; LaFonda Webb, Midland, TX; Sebastian Allen Pettes (Isabel), Nicholas Wilson (Traci), Houston, TX; Donny Pettes, Albuquerque, NM; Annette Sophia Pettes, Monjah Settles (Steve), Clay Pettes and Taisha Cox, Las Cruces.
Mr. Pettes has 21 great grandchildren and 9 great-great grandchildren.
Mr. Pettes continued to impart wisdom to his family, until several weeks ago, on the weekly family Zoom sessions. He would tell his life stories and lessons learned and remind his family to trust in the Good Master.
Mr. Pettes was preceded in death by three grandchildren, Darryl Daniels, Gerald Pettes and Sidney Eric Hill.
His only remaining sibling, Dora Ruth Williams (Melvin G. Sr., Master Chief, USN [Ret.]) lives in Temple Hills, Maryland. She and Melvin talked to her “big brother” a few days before his passing. He is also survived by one brother-in-law, Robert Wright and one sister-in-law, Mayrine Fielder.
Mr. Pettes had 13 other siblings – Nevia Fielder, Lillie Bell Coleman, Charlie B. Pettes, Idell Jackson Jamison, Bertha Dudley, Clara Fielder, Niculea Newton Steward, Janata Moultrie, Jimmie Lee Pettes and four brothers who passed away as babies - Johnny Arthur, Robert Anderson, Samuel, and Elzie.
Mr. Pettes and the Pettes Family have a rich history. He helped his dad (R.A.) farm in the Mesilla Valley. R.A., because of his work ethic, was promoted to straw boss working for Ras Mayfield. Mr. Mayfield entrusted thirty-two acres to R.A. to farm, giving him the bulk of the profit.
Mr. Grover Pettes, his brother Jimmie, and cousin Johnny Fielder, went to El Centro and Merced, California in the family’s 1936 1 ½ ton truck, thinking they would haul produce. However, when they got there, they realized they were competing with people that had semi-trucks. They stayed and found other work.
Mr. Pettes told his dad he needed more money and wanted to make it on his. He wanted to pursue other work so he could support his family. He bought his first house when he was nineteen years old.
Mr. Pettes, like his dad, had an amazing work ethic and was very industrious and talented. He has been a singer, tire re-capper, carpenter, plumber, painter, fire suppression system installer and inspector, water utility operator, tractor driver, and inventor. He played the piano by ear, and he could fix almost anything, with his infamous tool boxes!
He went to work for Shook Tire Company. He later went to El Centro, California to work for Goodyear distributor, McNeese & McNeese Company. He told the owner that he would work for a month and if the owner was happy with his work, he wanted a pay raise, and then he would go back to Las Cruces to get his family. After 30 days, the owner said “Pettes, I am very happy with your work. Go get your family!”
Mr. Pettes came back to Las Cruces in 1955 to work at White Sands Proving Grounds, now called White Sands Missile Range. He later worked at Holloman Air Force Base. Mr. Pettes received specialized training at numerous schools and military installations, including New Mexico State University, Oklahoma State University, Chanute Air Force Base and Sheppard Air Force Base. He received superior performance awards and many appreciation letters during his work career. Mr. Pettes retired from Holloman in 1985, after 30 years of civil service, only after he had a serious automobile accident.
While working his government job, he started A-1 Car Wash and Polish on Hadley Street and later added a paint shop. His nephew, E.W. Wright, washed cars during the day and Mr. Pettes would wash cars and paint in the evenings and Saturdays.
When Mr. Pettes was a young man, he sang in a quartet called The Silver Tones. They traveled around the southwest singing at various venues. They were singing at a radio station in Arizona when Marilyn Monroe was also a guest.
Mr. R.A. Pettes, a man of God, had a dream that there was water under the ground when he saw the homesteaded desert land he selected and purchased on the east mesa. Mr. R.A. believed that something productive should be done with the land. He also had a dream that his son, Grover, would run a family business. In 1965, the family created a partnership, Mesa Development Company, which later became Mesa Development Center, Inc. (MDCI). Mr. Grover Pettes became the president of the company. No local banks would lend the family money to dig a water well. The family pooled their funds and had a water well dug where Mr. R.A. said they should dig. Indeed, there was water! Mr. Grover Pettes worked evenings and Saturdays to section off most of the 640 acres, design roads and dig water pipelines. Two additional water wells were later dug. Mr. Pettes was certified as a Water Systems 3 operator. The company provided water to over 300 customers until the water utility portion of the company was sold to the city around 2014. Mr. Pettes served as president of MDCI until his passing.
Throughout his life, Mr. Pettes was very active in the community. He was president of the PTA at Booker T. Washington Elementary school where his children attended, and he attended as a youngster. He was president of the local branch of the NAACP, and in 1964 worked to get the Public Accommodations Act passed in Las Cruces (after a very contentious city council meeting).
Mr. Pettes was part of the Fifth District Improvement Organization with Fred Baker, Henry Diaz, Mrs. Sanders and Mr. Fernandez, that in 1956, organized to implement a program for urban renewal in the City of Las Cruces. The members worked with the City to help get Community Development Block Grant money from the federal Housing and Urban Development, in order to assist low-income area residents, improve their property. The money was also used to install fire hydrants in the area.
Mr. Pettes received a NAACP achievement award in 2018, personally presented to him by the National President and CEO of the NAACP, Mr. Derrick Johnson.
Mr. Pettes continued his dad’s legacy and became president of the Community Cemetery in Las Cruces, so black people would have a place to lay their loved ones to rest.
Mr. Pettes was recognized and interviewed by the HistoryMakers and in 2019, his interview became a permanent part of the HistoryMakers collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Pettes was an integral part of an exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum, called Facing the Rising Sun: The Journey of African American Homesteaders in New Mexico. The exhibit was curated by the African American Museum & Cultural Center of New Mexico, (Mrs. Rita Powdrell, President) and the City of Albuquerque.
He received many other work, church, and community awards.
Mr. Pettes was a proud member of the Bethel Second Baptist Church for his entire life, where he served as a deacon for over 74 years. He served in numerous capacities, including Chairman of the Deacon Board, Trustee Board, Sunday School teacher and Senior Choir member. He was also a generous man. He purchased video equipment for the media ministry. He was involved in the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention; the church, state, and National Baptist Laymen’s Movement; and the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
Mr. Pettes’ greatest joys were his family, church, and his community. His wife, Laura, helped him build the family home in the evenings and on weekends. She helped nail the sheetrock and kept him fed while he was working. Mr. Pettes had wonderful family and friends who helped him complete the house in 1967. When he got seriously ill the past year and required some hospitalization and skilled nursing care, his constant desire was to go home. He went home in December, a few days after his 97th birthday. He was still dispensing wisdom until a few days before he passed away peacefully in the home that he and his sweetheart built. Dad, Pop, Grandpa, Paw Paw, Big Paw Paw, Big Brother, Uncle G., G.P., Mr. P., and the “Master Blaster” - will be sorely missed.
The family wishes to express sincere thanks to Pastor Brian Harvey and the Bethel Second Baptist Church family, the many relatives and friends, and the healthcare providers.
in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Camp Patten, Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention, Tijeras, NM ( (mombsc.org ), attn: Shirley Ragin; Bethel Second Baptist Church Laymen’s Organization (bsbchurch.org); or to the charity of your choice in the name of Grover L Pettes.
Viewing will be Friday, February 17, 2023, 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM at Getz Funeral Home. Final viewing will be Saturday, February 18, 2023, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM, immediately followed by the Celebration of Life Service at Bethel Second Baptist, 405 East Hadley, Las Cruces, NM. 88001. Interment will take place at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens on Wednesday, February 22 at 12:30 PM. The Celebration of Life Service and Interment will be live streamed on the Getz Funeral Home Facebook page.
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