Ted Pettet was a young Arizona State College graduate (now Northern Arizona University) when he came to Payson as a business teacher/coach 54 years ago and he is still making a difference in young people’s lives in this community. For all he has contributed to the lives of young people and the entire community, Pettet was honored with the Mogollon Sporting Association’s Legacy Award 2013 last week.
Pettet was instrumental in starting the track and football programs at Payson High School in the early 1960s — creating many fond memories among local residents who are now in their 60s and 70s.
He was the baseball coach for a couple of years before he selected his successor, Tom Meck, a young catcher from the college ranks that put Longhorn baseball on the Arizona map. Even after he stepped down, Pettet was a volunteer coach and the official scorekeeper for the baseball team until just a few years ago.
Successful high school baseball teams must have youth programs teaching the correct fundamentals and Pettet was a founder and coach in the Town of Payson Little League program. He led the charge in finding and improving fields, training umpires and raising needed funds for a small town Little League program.
He has the distinction of being the first paid athletic director at PHS and understood the value of athletics in developing responsibility and discipline within the student population. His influence on the entire sports program has been a key factor, which over the years has grown to state championship quality. His leadership was invaluable in adding new athletic teams for young student athletes to excel at Payson High School and throughout life.
As a beginning teacher in 1971, I was assigned to observe his physical education class and hopefully pick up some pointers that might help in making me a teacher. I asked him what words of wisdom he might share and his response was to the point, “Do you like kids? Then you need to do the right thing for them.”
It was a simple and yet profound answer that guided his high school teaching and coaching career and I might add, made a difference in a couple of other young aspiring coaches at PHS.
After 22 years in education he retired and continued to serve as a volunteer in the community and laid the fundamental groundwork for the current parks and recreation program. Much of the current Rumsey Park and its 10 acres of community recreation is the result of the behind the scenes work of Ted Pettet obtaining the land for the community and securing a donation of three acres from Dale Rumsey, whose name identifies the park.
Pettet was appointed and later officially elected as the first mayor of Payson from 1973-76 and continued with his efforts in a number of civic endeavors. One such idea was generated 21 years ago by a group of local visionaries that created the Mogollon Sporting Association.
He was one of the charter members who saw the value of this organization and an annual banquet to generate funds to stay in the area to benefit local public schools and wildlife habitat. Over the years, it has expanded and has donated approximately $2 million to the youth of our community and improving of the wildlife habitat in the area.
The most recent wildlife improvement is the catchment drinker, built below the Oxbow near the Chilson Ranch, which creates a permanent watering system in an extremely arid area. This is just one of many guzzlers built with funding from the Mogollon Sporting Association and volunteer labor from its members.
Let us all congratulate Ted Pettet for his lifelong service to the youth and community of Payson. The Legacy Award for 2013 presented by the Mogollon Sporting Association is well deserved for a man who has made the difference in so many young people’s lives.