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William Gower Pettus obituary notice
Posted by: William Pettus (ID *****9435) Date: December 20, 2009 at 07:33:30
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This morning I received the following obituary notice for Dr. William Gower Pettus, a noted physicist and Virginia resident:

William Gower Pettus, 84, of Agricola, passed away Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009. He was the devoted husband of Arline Cash Pettus for 62 years.

He was born Aug. 6, 1925, son of the late Rev. Joseph Benjamin Pettus, Methodist minister in the Peninsula Conference, and the late Ruth Coleman Pettus and was also preceded in death by a sister, Ruth Page Pettus Palmer.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, William Gower Pettus Jr., and a brother, Joseph Benjamin Pettus Jr. of Snow Hill, Md.

Dr. Pettus retired as advisory physist from the Nuclear Power Division of Babcock & Wilcox in 1991 after 35 years of service. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II. He received a B.S. degree in math and physics from Lynchburg College in 1949 and was an instructor in math and physics at LC while working on his M.S. degree at UVa, which he received in 1953. He received a teaching fellowship at UVa while working on his doctorate and received his Ph.D. in physics from UVa in 1956.

Dr. Pettus was a visiting research scientist at Princeton University in NJ during 1978 and a visiting professor at VPI and SU in Blacksburg in 1981. Dr. Pettus was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Omega chapter of Chi Beta Phi, American Physical Society, veteran of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Humane Society of the U.S., Native Conservancy, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church and was current member of Mt. Tabor UMC. Dr. Pettus held nine U.S. registered patents.

A graveside funeral service will be conducted at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009, in Fort Hill Memorial by Pastor Joyce Austin.

Memorial contributions may be made Mt. Tabor UMC, 1024 Lewis Keith Road, Monroe, VA 24574, and/or Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L. Street N.W., Washington, DC 20037.

Heritage Funeral Service and Crematory, (434) 239-2405, is assisting the family. Online condolences may be sent to

I first met Bill in 1954 when I was an undergraduate engineering student at UVA and he was a returning WW2 veteran pursuing a PhD in physics. I interviewed him within the last two years to obtain information for his biography that will appear in my forthcoming book on Pettus history.

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