Sylvia S. Petrie

Sylvia Spencer Petrie, 90, passed away on Monday, August 9, 2021, at her Peace Dale home surrounded by members of her family.  She was the widow of Rhode Island poet (and long-time University of Rhode Island faculty member) Paul Petrie.

Sylvia was born on June 15, 1931 to Ruth Clark Spencer and Dr. Warren P. Spencer.  She grew up in Wooster, Ohio, where her father was a professor of genetics at Wooster College.  As a young child, she travelled with her mother to visit her mother’s birthplace of Rio de Janeiro, and this Brazilian connection has always been important to her.  

After graduating from Wooster College, she made her way to the University of Iowa where she studied printmaking with Mauricio Lasansky.  It was there that she met and  married Paul, her late beloved husband of 58 years, who was studying creative writing.  They fell in love over their shared love of music, singing the romantic songs of Rodgers and Hart together.  She continued to devote time to her art while they started a family.  Sylvia and Paul sometimes worked symbiotically in their art and poetry, with each occasionally drawing inspiration from the other’s work.  She exhibited her artwork in many venues, including one-person shows in Providence, Boston and even England.  She was a member of several artist groups, notably the Print Consortium and 19 on Paper.  Her work ranged between realism and abstraction but it always revealed a strong love for nature and a sensitivity to the interplay of light and shadow.

Though an accomplished artist, she always put her family first.   A devoted mother and grandmother, she leaves behind  three children: Philip, Emily and Lisa, and their spouses, and five grandchildren whom she doted on.  It is impossible to sum up anyone’s personality with just a few words, but like her beloved monoprints, we might paint in broad strokes—Sylvia was curious; Sylvia was compassionate; Sylvia gave what she had with very little thought for herself.  She will be sorely missed by all of her family.

A celebration of her life will be held on Friday, August 20 from 3:00-4:00 PM  at Avery-Storti Funeral Home, 88 Columbia St., Wakefield, RI.  Masks are required.  The service will be live streamed and uploaded for later viewing—please click on the YouTube link at the top right of the Avery-Storti homepage.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to HopeHealth (Hospice Care), 1085 North Main St., Providence, RI 02904 (or at this link). For guestbook and condolences, please visit

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