book coach editorial services freelance & ghost writing
Anne Stanton has published in the following:•• Hour Detroit•• Detroit Free Press•• Detroit News•• Michigan Monthly•• Northern Express•• Traverse Magazine•• Traverse City Record-Eagle•• Foreword Magazine(also magazine co-founder)•• Publishing Entrepreneur•• Interlochen Public Radio
At The Beach, Cheek to Beak
Traverse Magazine, Summer 1998
My children dash from the hot car almost as soon as we park. It's always this way: They race to the lake, doing a prickle dance over the baked stones and pavement, while my husband, Doug, and I unload the chairs, the towels, the buckets ... and my daughter's blow-up flamingo with the funny pink wings. It looks like something only Liberace could love.
Our favorite beach is Otter Creek, just south of Empire. The kids love floating down the skinny ribbon of river down to where it empties into the colder, churning surf of Lake Michigan. This is the summer that Katie, my 3-year-old, refuses to wear a swimsuit-- call it, maybe, her last summer of nakedness. Next year, she may too embarrassed to be without her suit. I put it on her. She takes it off. Little boys giggle and point. She doesn't even notice. How wonderful. What are beaches for, if not to feel oblivious to the day's rules?
So on this August evening, Katie has stripped and runs down the beach to the creek. She wiggles the pink and white flamingo up around her waist and impatiently waits for us to catch up. As soon as we're in shouting distance, she jumps into the creek. She floats effortlessly, leaning hard on the flamingo's neck. Cheek to beak with the rubber bird, she beams.
"That looks fun!" says my 6-year-old, Johnny. He begs for the flamingo, and she happily obliges. Somehow, being at the beach on a calm summer evening like this, with seagulls chuckling overhead and a cool breeze that smells faintly like watermelon--- somehow this instills in us all a sunny sense of manners we don't usually possess at home. When Johnny climbs on, however, the flamingo is overpowered by his weight and he fights to stay afloat, arms flailing. Finally, he flips and bobs up, snorting water. "It doesn't work for me!" he cries. Katie says, "That's okay, Johnny." She even gives him a hug. At home, by now, getting ready for bed, they'd be wrestling and twisting each other's ears.
It's now that a thought seems to occur to him, a new one, something maybe he's been storing all winter as he watched snow pile against the cloudy windows, secretly hungering for the cool, cool baths of summer nights like these. Johnny boldly announces that he can swim without... anything.
Holding his breath, Johnny plunges in and swims underwater for the first time. An entire three feet down the creek. He explodes to the smooth surface, spitting water. "I did it! I did it!"
We stand on the warm sand and feel the cooler night wind around our tanned ankles and watch him walk toward us, dripping with water and smiling. How quiet and simple this moment is. How easily the clear night of a beach magnifies such sweetnesses.
"Did you see me?" the smiling boy asks. Did you?" Looking at our goofy smiles, he knows the answer.
FAITH IN LOVE: MEMORIES OF MY FATHER
Two months ago, my oldest brother called me to say the doctors had finally figured out why the lining of my dad's outer lung kept filling up with fluid.
He had mesothelioma, a cancer caused from exposure to asbestos. It was hard to detect because the hundreds of little tumors were no bigger than little tiny pencil points.
Dad found the diagnosis very strange since he was a state trooper and didn't work around asbestos. He recalled putting in a new furnace in the basement of our old house in Davison. He thought there might have been asbestos tucked around the vents, but he wasn't sure. Or maybe it was the two years in his early 20s when he worked for a dairy. Perhaps the pipes were lined with the killer white stuff.
I am old enough to have seen death before. Some of my friends were young, some old. My grief was deep, but simple. I'd miss them very much. But this time around, my feelings were so complicated.
My dad was a tall, formidable figure. A man's man. He was a detective and an expert marksman. He spoke with such a deep voice, my friends feared him. He also hunted every year with my older brothers. We must have had 50 guns and rifles in the house.
Dad did a lot of different jobs for the state police over his 24-year career. He was a scuba diver and recovered bodies out of ice-cold rivers and lakes. He took black and white photos of grisly crime scenes (which I accidentally, on purpose, found when I was a kid). He worked undercover in the race riots. He busted a serial bank robber in the Upper Peninsula and made him strip naked by his police cruiser so he wouldn't escape. His last decade was spent arresting drug dealers.
EIGHT IS ENOUGH
He and my mom married young with hopes of having 12 children. They stopped at eight, but it was still something. Eight kids in 10 years. I never realized what that meant until I had three of my own.
He also had a bad drinking problem. They say alcoholism is a disease, and I believe it, but there was also a lot of stress in his life. Imagine a family of eight kids hitting the teen years all at the same time? Unbeknownst to me, his drinking ramped up when I was in the sixth grade, the cruelest year of any human life, especially if you are a girl with no fashion sense.
When I was around 15 years old, dad was called on to quell two different hostage situations, both involving armed men. He killed the men in both cases, saving the lives of the hostages (one was his sergeant). There was no media scrutiny, but I think he took it hard. On top of the job stress, he was smoking three and a half packs of cigarettes a day.
In his early 40s, he had a minor heart attack. The doctor ordered him to quit work. He landed in his Laz-E-Boy and stopped talking.
I had no idea at the time that he was drinking. I interpreted his silence as his way of coping with his eight children who basically had only stupid things to say. My last, real conversation with him was about the Vietnam War. I thought the reasoning for the war was flimsy and hated the fact that so many thousands of young men on both sides were dying needlessly. I recoiled when Dad suggested we bomb the country into submission.
Sometimes Dad would break his silence and thunder out something like, "Enough!" and scare everyone. Then he'd lapse back into his stony silence. I remember when my brother Kevin walked behind his chair with his saxophone and honked, just to see if he were even alive. We stood waiting, squirming in the stairway, wondering if we'd ever see Kevin again.
At the time, I thought alcoholics were hoboes or soap opera stars who secretly sipped cocktails in the afternoon. It never occurred to me that my own dad might be one. My cluelessness, owes in part, to my abilities of avoiding the house. I got a job at the local drugstore and joined every after-school club imaginable. I did my homework at the library. I obsessed over my terrible relationship with him. I felt so bad. All the time.
And then when I was 16, I had an epiphany. I had to let the dad-loves-his-daughter-bonding thing go. It wasn't happening, for whatever reason, and I needed to move on with my life. There would always be friends, and I needed to start opening up to the rest of the world.
The guilt was lifted and I was free as a bird. I walked with a lighter step. I felt something in my heart, which I detected as joy. I had successfully detached. I began saving money for college and, for the first time, I had hopes for a happy life, far away from my family. I went to my first party in the 11th grade. Things were looking up.
And they were looking up for my dad too. He stopped drinking during my freshman year of college, and talked again. He rapidly transformed into a human being of interest. He earned a bachelor's and then a master's degree in social work. He went on to help hundreds of people back to sobriety. He took up horseback riding and sailing and built a cabin on a Montana mountaintop. His 12-step program led him into a deep faith.
I liked him much better, but he still vexed me. He wasn't much of a grandpa to the kids, mainly because he lived 2,000 miles away. And I guess I didn't exactly have my kids send him Valentine's Day cards either. Over the years, he repaired his relationships with all the other siblings, but I always felt a little on the edge looking in. He warmed up a little, but declined my invitation a few years ago when I offered to fly him into Michigan to meet my third child--his last and 25th grandchild. I was hurt, but persisted and later flew out to Montana where my son, by then a toddler, promptly climbed on his lap and planted a kiss on his cheek. Dad was charmed.
So what do you do with all these decades of feelings, especially when they don't seem quite appropriate?
When the cancer was diagnosed, all eight siblings agreed to take turns staying with my mom and dad to serve as chauffeurs and cooks. Six weeks ago, I went to their trailer in a little trailer park outside of steamy Phoenix. After I arrived, I enthusiastically waited on them hand and foot. I bought him the newest James Bond book and lots of milk shakes.
One night, I apologized to my dad for being such a difficult child. (Oh I didn't mention that?)
And my dad was amazingly nice. Yet there were the times when he'd have a "break-through" of pain--when the Oxycotin wasn't doing the job. He'd grimace and lapse into silence. I knew exactly why he was grouchy, but that's when my childhood pain came roaring back.
One night, we had an uncomfortable conversation about politics and religion--a talk I'd rather not have with a dying man. It ended badly with my mom saying she'd pray for me and my dad stalking out of the room.
My mom and I later agreed that our love wasn't based on whether we agreed on political issues. She said they were proud of me. And I told her that as much as I wanted Dad to like me, I couldn't change who I was.
The next morning, everything was back to normal. I made coffee for my dad, really weak, the way he likes it, we chatted over the headlines of Fox News, and I took their dog, Sam, for a walk around the trailer park. Sam took a dump in the middle of a cactus with foot-long thorns.
I marveled how he did that without getting his bottom spiked. We laughed about it when I got back.
When it came time to leave, my dad thanked me, and he sounded like he was really, really grateful.
And wen I got back home, I talked to dad on the phone at least every other day, and he was gentle and kind and ... loving. He seemed to have let our political and religious differences go by the wayside.
I've wrestled with all these emotions over the past two months, and it hasn't been pretty. I've talked to other people about their dads and I realize my dad wasn't that much different than most of the other men who grew up in the Depression era--that silent, tough guy type who admired John Wayne and watched 007 movies.
A friend of mine suggested that this was the time that I ask my dad questions that still linger in my mind. Tough questions about why we never seemed to click.
I didn't dt that, because, well probably, because I was too afraid. But the answer came anyway. I realized his love was always there, but I had to be willing to believe in it. He may not have necessarily liked me, but he did love me. And it sure has hurt to see him slowly die.
Two weeks ago, I flew back to Phoenix to be with him, and my seven siblings, because he had gone into hospice care. I walked into the room where he was staying and found him in bed, laboring to breathe. He sometimes stared at a vanishing point in the room that none of the rest of us could see. He was dying with a furious sense of purpose, and I was overwhelmed by how brave he was. He always had been a brave man, I thought. During his last few hours, when he could no longer talk, I gently squeezed his hand and told him once more, "I love you dad." He nodded. Yes.
January 19, 2013, Traverse City Record-Eagle
BY ANNE STANTON, firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVERSE CITY--Mondays are Dr. William Nowak's surgery day, but you won't find him standing at the operating table, hovering over patients.
In fact, Nowak sits eight feet away from the patient, his head buried in a console. Yet he can perfectly sees what's going on inside the patient--a three-dimensional moving picture, magnified by ten. Nowak uses his hands, wrists and fingers to manipulate joysticks that control tiny robotic arms that perform the actual surgery. It looks like a whole lot like a video game.
Nowak is one of more than a dozen physicians at Munson Medical Center who have largely traded in hand-held, unbendable surgical instruments for robotic arms that can pivot around tight corners. For a typical hysterectomy, he'll make three to four tiny incisions in the patient, about a half-inch long. These small cuts serve as the entry points for the tiny surgical tools and a miniaturized camera.
Munson Medical Center bought the da Vinci surgical robotic system in 2009 for $1.7 million. Initially, only three Munson surgeons used the da Vinci. Now that number is up to 15, with as many as 10 surgeries performed using it each week, said Carol McManus, Munson Medical Center's clinical coordinator.
"We have new ones coming on all the time," McManus said. "This is the wave of the future."
Clinical studies show robot-assisted surgery is pricier than traditional surgery, ranging from about $1,700 more for prostate surgery to $2,600 for a hysterectomy. The medical field is still debating whether surgical outcomes justify the higher expense, even as the popularity of robotic-assisted surgery skyrockets nationally. Studies do conclude, however, that surgeons new to robot-assisted surgery are more likely to make mistakes and take longer.
McManus believes that patient outcomes outweigh the higher costs.
"When you see a robotic da Vinci hysterectomy versus an open abdominal or even a laparoscopy assisted, it is less bleeding, less pain, quicker recovery, less risk of infection," she said. "The lack of blood loss is huge. You lose 50 cc's of blood; four times that amount is not uncommon in regular abdominal surgery. Once a surgeon becomes proficient, the operation is as fast, if not faster, than traditional surgery."
Patients with traditional abdominal surgery are usually hospitalized for one to two days, she said.
"With the da Vinci, you're home the next day," McManus said. "We've had patients out shopping within days, but it's not recommended."
Misty Wendel, 37, of Fife Lake, was one of them. She had a robot-assisted hysterectomy about a year ago, stayed one night at the hospital and went to her daughter's basketball game the next night.
"I felt amazing," she said.
Nowak was one of the earliest surgeons to use it and is one of its biggest proponents. A big advantage: it offers a three-dimensional view with magnification of up to 10 times.
"I've been in practice for 30 years and I've done hysterectomies six or seven different ways," Nowak said. "In my opinion, the robotic approach offers an unprecedented view of the anatomy."
He said less expensive laparoscopy surgery is limited to simpler surgeries and offers a two-dimensional view. The da Vinci can do more complex surgeries because the robot's bendable wrists allow for tight turns and intricate maneuvers, he said.
That said, Nowak acknowledged his learning curve was steep.
"I had performance anxiety. Of course, the (early surgeries) are proctored," he said. "Now I've done it hundreds of times. But the learning curve — it's a humbling experience and you have to work through it. You have to get confident. Once you become adept at it, it just takes off, and it's hard to go back."
Nowak said that a surgeon's experience and surgical record are key considerations when deciding on a surgery, robotic or otherwise.
"This isn't for everybody," he said. "Because you don't do it doesn't mean you're a bad doctor. It's just another tool that's revolutionized classic surgery."
The earliest robotic system, developed in the 1990s, sparked the interest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which envisioned surgeons operating remotely on wounded soldiers, said Angela Wonson, spokeswoman for Intuitive Surgical, which makes the da Vinci.
The battlefield application never came to fruition, but inventors realized its tremendous potential for hospitals, she said.
"There's a lot of technology in medicine that comes through the space or defense program, and this is a good example of one of those," Wonson said.
Urologist Dan Flewelling is one of the first crop of doctors to learn robotic surgery while in residency training. The da Vinci makes sense for urology because the camera can go deeper into the pelvis where it's hard to see, he said.
During his residency, he trained on games to improve his fine motor skills so that manipulating the robotic arms became second nature. Flewelling said he grew up playing video games, which made the transition to robotic-assisted surgery much easier.
"You take a ring and move it across these different areas," he said. "I was doing that at the hospital and getting lost in them because they were so much fun. I'd forget I was putting in hours of extra training."
Now at Bay Area Urology, Flewelling said he can do procedures using the robot or the old-fashioned way. But he prefers the da Vinci because he can work in spaces too tiny for his hands.
"It's also best for patients," he said. "They lose less blood and they're back to full strength two weeks earlier."
WAR / HISTORY
ESCAPE FROM A FLOATING HELL
On the day George Petritz descended into the filthy, oven-hot hold of a Japanese ship, he realized he would need a miracle to get out alive.
The date was December 13, 1944, when guards herded Petritz and 1,618 other Bilibid camp prisoners onto the Oryoku Maru, a former passenger vessel gutted to transport troops. The Japanese needed the POWs to serve as slave laborers in its worker-starved factories.
A handsome, gangly ensign, Petritiz had already endured two years in a Japanese prison camp. He lived on a starvation diet of rice mixed with vermin, corncob, banana peels, and rotted left-overs. Fellow prisoners were viciously beaten; others wasted away from disease. Petritz never despaired, but now that he was on the slave ship, he realized he had but one option. Escape.
Today, Petritz is known in Beulah -- where he lives with his wife, Althea -- as the man who bought Crystal Mountain outside the village of Thompsonville 38 years ago. Then it was a tiny ski hill and nearly bankrupt. It's grown since then into one of northern Michigan's most popular ski resorts, recently opening 11 new slopes and drawing more than 4,000 people on a single Saturday.
Yet Petritz has a story he's rarely told. Like many World War II veterans, Petritz, 86, realizes time is short and wants to share what happened on the Oryoku Maru (pronounced oh-ree-OH-koo Muh-ROO). He was only one of two to escape the hellship that swallowed up hundreds of lives. Each year, Petritz gratefully acknowledges the anniversary of his own freedom -- Jan. 29, 1945 -- the day he was picked up by a PT boat and began his journey home.
Petritz's story began in the prison camps where he showed a keen resolve to retain a sense of dignity honed from a privileged upbringing in Rockford, Illinois. He had arrived at the Cabanatuan prison camp in May of 1942 after a recent bout of malaria and suffering an oozing wound on his shin. After his shin failed to heal with scant antibiotics, a doctor from Colorado decided to graft Petritz‘ healthy skin from his upper thigh onto his shin. It took 30 skin grafts using a razor blade and pliers. And no anesthesia.
"It wasn't horrible," Petritz said. "As he worked, I read a piece of Japanese literature (written in English) on the co-prosperity sphere that the Japanese was trying to establish."
His unshakeable sense of self was what allowed him to escape from the hell ship shortly after the journey began, believes his daughter Mimi Appel, who listened avidly during the rare times her father would open up.
"I remember when my mom would make soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, and we would beg him to eat the entire egg like he did in prison camp," she said. "And the reason why he did that is that he wanted to get as many nutrients out of whatever he had. In a way, it was a larger metaphor of how he could find even the most remote positive out of anything that was in front of him."
Petritz traded cigarettes from his Red Cross kits, for example, for vitamins. He'd readily throw out his dinner of lugau -- a thin, watery substance made of rice -- if a fly landed on it rather than risk disease. He exercised every day.
More importantly, he kept his spirit strong in the face of Japanese guards who treated prisoners like vermin (owing to their cultural belief that the act of surrendering was the ultimate disgrace). Petritz befriended three men who made a pact to share everything that was smuggled into them by their Filipino friends. They ate together every night on a makeshift table, using manners as if they mattered. They ironed their clothes by laying them under bamboo mats, played volleyball with the guards (and let them win) in order to get more exercise. They sang together and cultivated a small vegetable garden.
Petritz, ever resourceful, even found a book of Shakespeare to read during the interminable roll call of prisoners.
"There was so much to despair and his whole approach was to absolutely mine the positive," said Appel, who lives in Traverse City. "He surrounded himself with other people who refused to indulge in suffering."
WHIPPED TO THE HOLD
Yet conditions at the prison camp deteriorated badly as the Americans began to dominate the war. On December 13th, the Japanese herded 1,600 prisoners through the dusty streets of Manila, where Filipino children flashed them furtive victory signs, according to a Nov. 18, 1945, San Francisco Chronicle article.
The POWs shuffled to Pier 7, already crammed with about 2,000 Japanese civilian men, women and children who were scrambling off the island before they were forced off by American troops. The well-heeled civilians would ride first class in the topside cabins of the Oryuko Maru. They smiled and laughed at the bone-thin, ragged prisoners lined up on the hot pier, seeming to enjoy their suffering, Petritz said.
After hours of waiting, Petritz boarded the ship too slowly for the impatient Japanese guards, who whipped him toward the ladder into a dark hold. Sentries at the bottom swept the prisoners into the farthest reaches with brooms. Petritz folded his 6'2 frame onto a three-foot high shelf, knees up under his chin, next to his best friend, Bob Glatt. Steamy, sweaty bodies were squeezed into three different holds, many forced to stand like vertical sardines. With no ventilation, temperatures soared to 120 degrees. Robbed of oxygen and overwhelmed by the odor of human waste and manure, Petritz slumped into unconsciousness sometime during the night.
Petritz can recall little from his semi-conscious haze. He recalls guys going out of their minds and dying from suffocation as their tongues swelled up in their throats.
He remembers a point when he thought he, too, would die and gave a little container of condensed food to Glatt. But he still held hope. He remembers saying to Glatt: "They're going to have to make it a lot tougher before they break me."
MURDER ON THEIR MINDS
The prisoners, parched with thirst, screamed for food and buckets to use for human waste. In the dark, the prisoners couldn't tell which was which. As a cruel joke a crazed man would purposely mislead a fellow prisoner, only to howl in laughter as his neighbor dipped a hand into a bucket of human waste or fouled a bucket of precious rice, according to the San Francisco Chronicle account.
Petritz has read the history of events on the ship, and admits that semi-consciousness was a blessing.
The next morning, on December 14th, Allied planes began attacking the unmarked Oryoku Maru as it crept along the jagged edge of Luzon Island.
A bomb hit the water near the ship and cut a jagged hole, allowing sun and air to stream into the grateful prisoners, who wanted the Americans to “win“ even if it meant their own demise. One strike killed and wounded hundreds of Japanese civilians. During the night, the Japanese passengers were unloaded to safety on an island in Subic Bay, while the men in the holds suffered another night of savagery and murder.
ANOTHER AIR RAID
Morning came and the prisoners were ordered to swim ashore about 500 yards away, but almost immediately the operation was punctured by another air raid. A direct blast in the aft hold instantly killed about 100 men and wounded 150 more. Panicked, the men rushed the ladders from the smoking hold and jumped overboard into the warm saltwater. Japanese guards manned tripod machine guns along the beach and shot anyone attempting escape. About 1,300 soldiers made it alive to shore, many of them burned or mangled by shrapnel.
Petritz, still in his folded position, was mistaken for dead. Luckily, Dave Nash, a naval officer, saw his chest move and shook his leg.
"Are you still alive?" he asked Petritz, who stirred after a minute or two. "You better get out of here because the ship is starting to burn. It's already listing, probably 10 or 15 degrees. She's taken on water from the bombing."
With everyone dead in the hold, there was plenty of air and Petritz regained full consciousness. He climbed up a steel ladder and squinted in the early afternoon sun. The ship was burning aft and wind carried smoke over the hold.
Petritz thought of escape. But how? He looked at the lifeboats. Maybe wait until night and take one of those. No, they were riddled with bullet holes, and the ship would sink by then anyway. Then he realized his first order of business was to find some clothes.
"How or why, I'll never know, but I had absolutely no clothes on" Petritz said, who guesses he was now down to 100 pounds. "So I found some on deck with a little bit of blood stains on them and I knew that would attract sharks. I was reluctant to use them, but I didn't have too much of an alternative.“
A TWO-MILE SWIM
Searching the officer's cabins, he found a new toothbrush, toothpaste, some brown sugar in a jar and some Japanese celery. He ate all he could stomach. Then he tied on a life preserver and tucked a knife into his pocket.
Petritz rejoined Nash, who asked him to help carry medical supplies ashore for the POWs.
"I will help load them on your boat, but I‘ll never be taken alive again by the Japanese," Petritz told Nash.
After he loaded up supplies and shoved Nash off, Petritz decided it was time. He jumped off the boat and bided his time under a wooden crate until the sun's rays created a sea of diamonds to blind the view of the machine gunners onshore. Finally, he slipped off his life preserver -- too buoyant for saltwater -- and began to swim. He swam for about two miles, directly away from the Japanese guards. Sometime around dinner, he came upon a Filipino banca -- a canoe with an outrigger -- with a boy of about 11 and his grandmother.
They took him to the village of Binacaian where the villagers immediately hid him in the woods and gave him a good dinner. Later that night, the boy took him around a point to Trebawa Bay. There a Filipino man Fortunato Millado hid him in the jungle along with another escapee, Darnell Kadolph, and went to seek help from Navy officers.
On the first night, the two men slept on the bare ground near Millado's house, but asked for a simple shelter after a wild boar disturbed their sleep. The Navy arranged for Petritz to hide out with Filipino guerillas for several more weeks, while Kadolph elected to stay with Millado a while longer (he was picked up a short time later on the USS Fletcher).
Petritz's prayers had been answered. He was safe in the guerrilla hideout and almost healthy. He acquired a bout of benign tertian malaria that would recur for years. It began with a fever, giddiness and an intense depression that led to minutes of uncontrollable crying. The next day, he felt completely normal.
On January 29, the guerrillas led him to a beach where he was picked up by two Navy patrol boats. Petritz said it was thrilling to talk finally to "normal people." And like a child on Christmas morning, he was elated to discover that radar had been invented while he was in prison.
Coincidentally, Petritz was rescued on the same day the hell ship survivors arrived in Moji, Japan. Onlookers cringed in horror as about 450 walking skeletons disembarked. Still forced to work, a mere 271 survived to be liberated in August of 1945.
Petritz later learned that the two nights on the Oryoku Maru were just the beginning for the POWs. Its journey to Japan was supposed to have taken 10 days, but it stretched out to seven tortuous weeks and involved two other prison ships, trucks, freight train cars, and walking on bare feet.
Men were lost from Allied bombings, dysentery, wound infections, starvation, and even beheadings at the hands of the Japanese. They were forced to live at times on black and salty water; to trade their rings or watches for food and water; and to live and eat among corpses, according to a 1963 Argosy magazine account.
Like Petritz, the men were given no special treatment when they arrived home. But they did have the satisfaction of the war-crimes court. In May of 1947, two of the senior Japanese officers were convicted and sentenced to hanging. A third was given a life sentence. General MacArthur declared the POWs experience the most sadistic treatment of POWs in the war's history.
Petritz, unaware of the fate of the fate of his comrades, was determined to get on with his life. He found a job with IBM in Chicago where he met his spirited wife, Althea Craker. They married in 1946 and soon moved to Althea‘s hometown of Beulah where her family grew fruit trees and sold fruit pies to summer tourists out of the Cherry Hut (no longer connected to the family).
George and Althea decided to market frozen pies, then a brand new concept. By the early 1950s, they were distributing Pet-RITZ pies nationally. In 1955, they sold out to Pet Milk, which created the famous Pet-RITZ piecrust.
In 1966, Petritz and two partners bought Crystal Mountain (George eventually bought out the other two partners). In 1985, his son-in-law and daughter, Jim and Chris MacInnes, joined the business and were gradually transferred control. Petritz still serves on the board. And Althea, who has been an active partner all along, still teaches yoga at the age of 80.
Petritz sought to draw lessons from his experience, particularly how to judge a person‘s character. When choosing employees, for example, he sought out team players and has rarely made a bad choice. He was initially inspired by a group of POW officers who decided to design, build, and operate a sewer system to avert the massive deaths from malaria and dysentery.
"He saw the power and beauty of how people could work together in the face of adversity" said daughter Mimi Appel.
Daughter Chris MacInnes agrees that her father's war experience caused him to value relationships and the employees felt his respect.
"He provided a tremendous image of hospitality and compassion for our guests and staff members," she said. "He understood the direct relationship between the way you treat people and the way they treat others."
Petritz was awarded the prestigious Navy Cross for his defense of Manila Bay -- an honor just one step down from the Congressional Medal of Honor -- and was promoted to full lieutenant shortly after his return to the states.
He still retains a strong faith in God and his fellow man and decided years ago that he had to forgive the inhumanity he witnessed.
"I decided, when I was in it, to view it as a case study, as a casual observer. That none of it was personal," Petritz said. "I'm so convinced that any race of people can be subjected to brainwashing by a militaristic government that I have no resentment of the Japanese. And indeed some of the Japanese did what they could to make life bearable for us. Hopefully, the atrocities that have occurred all too frequently will inspire problem solving that works between nations."