Every week a piece of good news arrived wrapped in brown paper. It was signed:
“A gift from Terry.”
The sender, Terry Petesch, scoured local newspapers each week in search of a positive story. Then, he framed it at his Terry’s Framing & Arts Supplies in the Centre Shops and signed the back of it before delivering the piece to the subject of the article.
Petesch spent 27 years “framing Longboaters,” as he put it.
He framed bits and pieces of their lives, such as masks, guitars, horseshoes, preschooler drawings and even the baby teeth of a dentist’s child who wanted to preserve them forever, along with artwork and photographs.
“Terry was an artist in his own right,” said Kip O’Neill, a friend of Petesch’s for 18 years. “I’m sitting here on my own couch, and everything — artwork, pictures — is framed by Terry.”
Petesch, of Cortez and formerly of Longboat Key, died Tuesday, Nov. 27. He was 62.
Ask his many friends how they met him and there’s a good chance they’ll tell some version of this story:
They walked into a store — either Longboat Framing Gallerie in Whitney Beach, where he worked from 1985 to 2000, or Terry’s Framing & Art Supplies, which he opened in 2000 — because they needed something framed.
They chatted with the framer, often about their families.
Petesch never missed a chance to talk about his beloved godsons, twins Clay and Cole Sidner, and David Radtke.
The customers always left with a friend — one who was a fabulous cook, host and guest and who never forgot to send a birthday card or a thank-you note after a party.
“I was going through his calendar and couldn’t believe how many birthdays he had written down,” said friend Gloria Bocchetti, who estimates that the calendar contained at least 10 birthdays per month.
Petesch was born June 26, 1950, in Minneapolis. He was a partner in an Italian restaurant, Pronto, and owned a hole-in-the-wall bar called Terry’s Grand Central Station, both in Minneapolis, before moving to the Sarasota area.
He worked for a period as a buyer for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and began framing after taking a class in 1978.
“He just had great taste, a great way of putting things,” said Jessica Dirkes, owner of J.J. Arts Custom Framing in Sarasota.
“The frame became part of the art,” said Robbie Ball, owner of Blue Dolphin Café. “He never used a tape measure or level. He eyeballed everything.”
His unique frame of mind went beyond the studio.
He was quick with a joke or pun.
When O’Neill’s grandson received the chickens he had asked for on his Christmas list, Petesch dubbed their coop “the Chick Mahal.”
He found ways to commemorate special occasions.
For O’Neill’s birthday, Petesch once created a giant cookie in the shape of a distorted map that had Longboat Key at the bottom, New York City at the top and Dutchess County, N.Y., at the center.
At Christmastime, he told people to “have a Terry Christmas.”
At Easter, he saved candies to make chocolate martinis a few months later during hurricane season with friend and neighbor Beaner Chandler.
But underneath his gregarious exterior was a private person who valued solitude, meditation and the teachings of Deepak Chopra.
He refused to own a cell phone or computer.
“He called them ‘time suckers,’” Dirkes said. “He wanted his time to himself. He didn’t want a cell phone buzzing in his pocket when he sat and enjoyed a cocktail.”
Petesch became ill approximately 18 months ago.
In his final days, his friends surrounded him at his Cortez home. He refused morphine until Sunday, the day he believed he would probably die. In the time he had left, he wanted to savor the things he loved, such as good company and conversation.
On Sunday, he looked to his friends, then the morphine.
“If you don’t mind,” he said, “I sure would like to get this party started.”
He died around 1:30 a.m. the next Tuesday.
Dirkes told Petesch that she would tend to Terry’s Framing & Art Supplies after his death, although those handling his estate haven’t yet determined if he left the business to someone.
But, whatever his wishes, he planned for a good time up until the end.
After he died, Bocchetti found a wrapped Christmas gift with her name on it in Petesch’s home.
She won’t open it until Christmas Day, but she is pretty sure it’s a framed picture of her and her boyfriend.
And she thinks that on the back it will probably read: