Grace Wynn (Hughes) Petrakian passed from this world on Thursday, July 16, 2015, about 1:30 p.m., surrounded by family at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. The cancer she had fought on four separate occasions had returned and spread, proving itself silent and deadly.
Grace was born Sept. 2, 1943, in New Castle, Colo., the same year the Great Depression ended. She was the fourth and youngest child born to Adron Kay and Clarabelle Hughes. Her father chose the name Grace after his aunt, and her mother chose the name Wynn, after her aunt. She spent her first five years in Rifle, and began her formal education at the Rock School on Piceance Creek, followed by three and half years of high school in Meeker, before moving to Silt, where she was graduated in 1961.
When not busy with the many chores around the house—they didn’t have electricity until she was 12—she loved pretending to be an Indian while playing in and around the old Indian forts along Piceance Creek. She once said, “That hill was my friend, counselor and hideout.” She felt a connection with the land and its people.
Her motto was simple, “Family comes first,” but she also believed in random acts of kindness, and she often went out of her way for others and touched many lives. She was always thinking of others, especially family members who weren’t nearby. She kept a couple of boxes that she would fill with little things she knew someone would enjoy. Some things just make the soul sing, she said.
She attended college in Oklahoma and in Greeley, Colo. It was there that she met her good friend, Diane Smith, who suggested a trip to New Jersey, where she met the love of her life, Robert (Bob) Petrakian. They were married on Feb. 28, 1965, just 28 days after they met. They remained in New Jersey and had two children, Robin and Lex. They were her pride and joy.
Her husband knew she was a woman who lived in two worlds; after all, she was Wynn when she was in New Jersey and either Gracie or Cissy in Colorado. She made annual trips with her kids catching up with family and planning trips. She was very excited to make the trip with her grandchildren, Jodi and Frank.
She was an avid reader and liked to collect first-edition children’s books. She liked the book Free to Be You and Me, which was her approach to life. She was kind and listened more than she spoke.
People and animals trusted her. She once sat back watching our neighbor chase around some pigs, while she just went and got a bucket of food. When the pigs came by, she held it out, and they followed her right back to the pen. She was also known to stop traffic to let the odd animal, from frogs to turtles, cross the road.
She loved to garden. At one point, her garden covered over half an acre. It might have gotten a bit smaller over the years, but it never lacked passion. She seemed to glow when she was in the garden, and it is amazing: it’s filled with bleeding hearts, hellebores, hostas and giant white peonies. She hung fairy chimes and colored flags, turned teapots into birdhouses and built fairy groves. She felt connected and centered when she was there and loved to walk her labyrinth.
As her children got older, she started volunteering at the school, which led to a job as a librarian. She worked at several libraries, including County College of Morris, where she also became a student. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 1998 from Thomas Edison College. She went on to get a job at Hewitt Associates and finally Merck before she retired.
She told her daughter, you don’t need to have all the answers, you just have to know how to find them. This was proven when she chose to write and publish Land of Tall Grass: Stories from Piceance Creek. Her mother was a born storyteller and had even been paid for her time. Gracie decided she had to write that book, and she did. She spent a few years interviewing residents from the Meeker, Colo., area. The book was a labor of passion, but she did it with the support of family.
She was preceded in death by: her parents (Adron) Kay Hughes and Clarabelle (Raley Hughes) Just; half-brother Boyd Fleming; sisters Jenne Kay Hughes and Nancy Lucky (Hughes) Eubanks.
She is survived by: her husband, Robert (Bob) Petrakian of Chester, N.J.; children Robin Petrakian-Pierro and her husband, Jon, of Clifton, N.J., Lex Petrakian and his wife, Brenda, of Succasunna, N.J.; stepson Dennis Bettler and his wife, Linda; grandchildren Jodi, Frank, Brian, Kurt and Clint; half-sister Colleen (Fleming) Wilson of Grand Junction, Colo.; brother (John) Torrance Hughes and his wife, Connie, of Meeker, Colo.; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. She will be missed by all.
No services are planned, and the family requests you make a donation in her memory to your local library.