CATHEDRAL CITY – The life of Mayor Gregory S. Pettis “is complete,” the Rev. Clinton Crenshaw, Metropolitan Community Church, said during the benediction on Friday at the Public Celebration of Life for the late mayor. “He is not broken. He is not lost.”
Hundreds from across the city, county, and state filed in to Big League Dreams Sports Park at 10 a.m. Feb. 1 to honor the man whose first love was politics and, by extension, helping people. U.S. flags lined the walkway to a canopy tent that housed 600 white chairs.
At least a dozen floral sprays surrounded the stage. One of the banners read, Cathedral City Fire Department; another read City of Desert Hot Springs.
The Celebration of Life, emceed by Patrick Evans, KESQ meteorologist, was filled with all the things the longest-serving member of the Cathedral City City Council loved – pageantry, precision, pomp and circumstance, and, above all, friends and family.
The Cathedral City High School Band performed a musical overture, “You Raise Me Up.” The Cathedral City Police and Fire Honor Guard presented the flags.
The voices of his beloved Cathedral City High School Choir filled the air as they provided an emotional musical tribute titled, “I’ll Make a Difference,” under the direction of Fides May Le Roy. A second musical tribute was titled, “Hold Fast to Dreams.”
Pettis was instrumental in helping raise money so the choir could accept an invitation to perform at the Vatican last summer. Pettis was one of the chaperons.
One of the choir members who traveled to Rome with Pettis publicly thanked the late mayor “for providing students of the next generation with hope.”
The celebration was filled with remarks and remembrances from U. S. Rep. Mark Takano; Hernan Quintas, representative of U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz; state Sen. Jeff Stone; a video presentation from Mayor Pro Tem John Aguilar; and Mayor Mark Carnevale.
Ruiz honored Pettis on the House Floor this week; Takano said he will do the same. Watch the Ruiz tribute video by clicking here.
Each spoke of Pettis in accolades in which he would have reveled. Some of the words used to describe him were, “gentle giant,” “fierce,” a “true statesman,” “friend,” “colleague,” a man of “courage and tenacity,” a “trailblazer,” “the go-to guy for the rest of the Councilmembers” and an “extraordinary councilman.” That was just the start.
The audience was heavily sprinkled with elected officials from the across the Coachella Valley and the region. There were so many Mayor Carnevale said he could not possibly introduce them all or introductions would linger into the evening dinner hour.
“Luckily for you, we have a soccer game in this space starting at 6 p.m., so that makes it impossible,” he said.
“Today,” Carnevale said, “we have the honor and privilege to come together and reflect upon the 24 years of public service Mayor Pettis gave to Cathedral City and beyond. I purposely said ‘gave.’ As a City Councilmember you are always giving back to the community ….”
As a City Councilmember, Carnevale said, you learn terms and apply them to projects such as easements, pavement condition index, rights-of-way, and more.
“Nothing makes you ‘the life of the party’ more than discussing how Vista Chino Road went from a 2 to a 5 on the pavement condition index thanks to a new layer of road slurry. Am I right?”
The crowd erupted in laughter.
“Greg loved these terms and he loved how they were utilized to transform Cathedral City into a vibrant city that values diversity,” Carnevale said.
Pettis, he said, didn’t care if you were gay or straight, rich or poor, native or immigrant, Democrat or Republican.
“He wanted everyone to share in the love of this city and work together for the common good,” Carnevale said.
Moments after calling Pettis a “true statesman,” Carnevale choked up. He paused, took a deep breath, collected himself, and continued.
“He understood complex issues, diplomatic protocol, and could turn all of that knowledge into a response that could clear away any confusion. You may not have always agreed with Mayor Pettis on every issue, but he was willing to present his reasoning and point of view.”
Aguilar, one of Pettis’ closest friends and confidantes, delivered a video presentation in which he ticked off a lengthy list of the late mayor’s accomplishments. Pettis raised the first Rainbow Flag at City Hall during Cathedral City LGBT Days, which Aguilar called “one of Pettis’ proudest moments.” You may read many of the late mayor’s accomplishments by clicking here.
Pettis’ death, at age 63, was a shock. There simply is no other way to say it. It was a shock.
It was a typical Pettis move, Aguilar suggested.
“He used shock value to get people’s attention,” Aguilar said while strategically using a headline of Pettis’ proposed World Naked Bike Ride in Cathedral City.
Some nodded, some laughed, some sighed.
It was a welcome moment of levity.
“We love you. We miss you. May you rest in peace,” Aguilar said.
The common theme of the celebration was one of love for an extraordinary man.
“He was special to all of us,” Evans said in closing.
A reception immediately following the celebration event. It featured a Mexican Fiesta and was punctuated with Mexican Street Tacos, one of Pettis’ favorites.
Mayor Gregory S. Pettis
December 15, 1955 – January 15, 2019
- Mark Carnevale: Mark Carnevale