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Mark Patrick Petteys ’85

A picture of Mark Petteys

Mark Patrick Petteys ’85, October 22, 2011, in Hood River, Oregon. Mark was born in Pendleton but grew up all over Oregon, as his father worked for the U.S. Forest Service. After graduating from Hood River Valley High School, Mark attended Columbia University for a year and then transferred to Reed, where he earned a BA in physics and met Phyllis Manos ’86; they married in 1983; their son, Guthrie, was born in 1991. The family shared Mark’s love of the outdoors. Mark took Guthrie rock hounding and whitewater rafting. They fished, played chess, and enjoyed music together. Mark’s fascination with science led to further studies, including in chemistry, geology, hydrogeology, and mathematics. After working as a research assistant at Oregon Graduate Institute, he earned an MS from Boise State University in geophysics, writing his thesis on the use of field-flow fractionation to characterize colloids. He later worked as a research scientist and developed charged particle optics and other scientific systems.

Mark’s musical talents first emerged at the age of 8, when he got his first banjo and taught himself to play. He gained such fluency. that he performed throughout the U.S. with musicians such as Tex Williams, Grandpa Jones, Tiny Moor, Mark O’Connor, and the Country Gazette. He was a studio musician for Capitol Records in Nashville in 1977 and was declared Northwest Regional Banjo Champion in 1984. He taught banjo at the Northwest Folklife Festival, the National Old-Time Fiddle Festival, and the San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival. In 2005, he formed a bluegrass and western swing band, Ida Viper, which produced several recordings, including Some of These Days. “Mark was a funny storyteller and loved to laugh,” Phyllis says. “He called musicians in the middle of the night to discuss chord changes or tunes. He enjoyed camping trips with friends and had a zest for life.” Mark was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, which caused pain and numbness in his feet and hands, but maintained a positive attitude until he died. He was buried in Petteys Cemetery, a pioneer cemetery in Ione, Oregon. Longtime friend Greg Eibel [1974–2013], instrument machinist in the Reed physics department, transported Mark’s body in his 1962 Chevrolet Suburban, Pete. Survivors include Phyllis, Guthrie, and Mark’s mother, grandmother, and two brothers.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2012

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