Family and friends are mourning the loss of Heather Petrie of Eastport, a woman best remembered for her free-spirited passion for music and as someone who could always be found dancing at the front of a crowd.
Ms. Petrie—nicknamed “Sweet Peach” by one of her closest friends—died last Thursday, August 8, when the white 2005 Ford Mustang she was driving southbound on County Route 111, near her home in Eastport, struck the center median and overturned, landing in the northbound lanes. She was 40.
Suffolk County Police are still investigating the cause of the single-car crash, which occurred at around 7:45 a.m. and forced the closure of both northbound lanes and one southbound lane for several hours. Ms. Petrie did not have any passengers.
JoAnne McInnes of Medford, a close friend of Ms. Petrie since the two attended Sachem High School together, and who provided Ms. Petrie with her nickname, described her friend as a “ray of light,” and someone who loved deeply and was loved by many.
“She was magnificent,” Ms. McInnes said, adding that her friend left behind “many, many broken hearts.”
Friends and family members said Ms. Petrie could always be found front-and-center at concerts and festivals, dancing her heart out as if no one was watching. She was a hippie at heart, they said, possessing a love for nature and animals, including the horses she owned.
“The Grateful Dead is what she lived by, but she was just a lover of music,” Ms. McInnes said. “If there was no music, she made her own. She was definitely a person who marched to the beat of her own drum.”
Ms. Petrie was a licensed practical nurse and worked at the Westhampton Care Center off Old Country Road for 16 years before accepting her most recent job at the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Southampton Village. “Knowing her career choice was to be a caregiver, and to take care of other people in suffering, just spoke volumes of who she was as a person,” Ms. McInnes explained.
Ms. Petrie left behind a 16-year-old daughter, Hailey Cowan. April Mindlin, who also attended high school with Ms. Petrie, said her friends are working to establish a fund for Hailey to make sure she is taken care of during this tragic time.
“She was just one of the most free-spirited souls that I’ve ever met,” Ms. Mindlin said, adding that it was her late friend who was responsible for introducing her and Robert Mindlin, whom she later married. “She’s so going to be missed.”
Susan Cella of Manorville, Ms. Petrie’s cousin, said Ms. Petrie loved her daughter tremendously.
“There’s not many people out there like her, and that’s what made her special,” Ms. Cella said of her cousin. “She should have been born in the ’60’s. She lived like a flower child.”
On Friday, August 16, at 7 p.m. a Long Island band called the Free Grass Union is playing a set dedicated to Ms. Petrie at Fadeley’s Deli Pub in Patchogue—her favorite hangout. Another friend, Brian Gonzalez, has organized another event with music and dancing in memory of Ms. Petrie at the Long Island Glass studio, located off Morris Avenue in Holtsville, for Saturday, August 24, also at 7 p.m.
“She wouldn’t want us sitting here crying,” Ms. McInnes said, through tears. “She would want us smiling and dancing.”
In addition to her daughter, Ms. Petrie is survived by her parents, Marylou and Charles Petrie of Holbrook, and four siblings.
A celebration of Ms. Petrie’s life has been scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, August 16, at St. Sylvester’s Roman Catholic Church on Ohio Avenue in Medford, followed by a Mass at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, her family has asked that donations be made in Ms. Petrie’s name to Hope House Ministries, located at 1 High Street in Port Jefferson, New York, 11777.