William Raoul Pettersen, beloved by his family, friends and work colleagues, died peacefully on Sept. 21, 2022, at the age of 88.
Bill was born in Pensacola, Fla., on May 10, 1934, to Ernest W. “Pat” Pettersen and Dorothy Herndon Pettersen and soon established a reputation for a heroic work ethic. As a young boy, he arose before dawn each morning to milk cows and feed chickens. He also mowed the fields around the family property and sometimes helped at his father’s auto-repair shop. Summers were spent working at O.K. Smith’s general store in Churchton, Tenn., where Bill once froze in disbelief as Elvis Presley pulled up for gas.
After graduating Pensacola High School in 1952 and attending Marion Military Institute in Alabama, Bill graduated from the University of Alabama, where his devotion to Crimson Tide football and coach Bear Bryant took root. He served in the U.S. Army, and in 1957 married Ruth “Cissie” Shuptrine (1937-2009). In 1958 their daughter Dorothy “Dot” was born, followed in 1961 by son Charles. By then the couple was in Nashville, with Bill working for Baird-Ward Printing Co., where he stayed for more than 40 years, rose to vice president of Personnel and was known for his fairness, compassion and repertoire of funny stories.
In Nashville, Bill regularly attended the Grand Ole Opry and became a walking encyclopedia of country music, from famous singers and songwriters to obscure session musicians. His favorites included George Jones, Marty Robbins and the Glaser Brothers. But his kids liked The Beatles, and in 1966 Bill met them by chance on business at a New York City hotel and brought home their autographs.
Later in life, Bill married Dorothy “Bee” Bragg and, upon retirement, traveled often to Fort Worth to visit daughter Dot, her husband John and his new granddaughter Gracie, whom he adored. He also enjoyed trips to the Alabama coast to spend time with Charles, and to Pensacola to watch U.S. Navy Blue Angels air shows. In 2020, he relocated to Fort Worth, where Dot looked after him faithfully until his passing.
Bill is survived by his wife Bee and her granddaughter Bethany of Nashville; son Charles of Summerdale, Alabama; daughter Dot, her husband John and their daughter Gracie of Fort Worth; and many loving nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, and his sister, Ann Burgoyne.
The family is grateful to Bill’s caregivers over the last two years. Special thanks go out to Kara, Westeanna and Toni, who treated him with love and dignity in his final months, and who were tuned in to his dry wit, which was with him to the end.
Memorial donations may be given in Bill’s name to the Pensacola Historic Preservation Society, P.O. Box 12411, Pensacola, FL 32591.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, May 6 at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home, 9090 Highway 100, Nashville.