“Fire Unit 5 PD … the fire is out.”
Those familiar words for firefighters with the Leland Volunteer Fire Department have been spoken for the last time by Andrew “Andy” Fred Petro Sr.
A lifelong advocate for the City of Leland, serving the Leland Volunteer Fire Department for 57 years and the Leland Board of Aldermen for 16 years, Petro died early Monday morning at the age of 77.
As Petro battled COVID-19 Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jackson, several community members gathered at a prayer vigil Oct. 29 outside the Leland Fire Station.
Leland Mayor Kenny Thomas said he and Andy were close friends for many years.
“Andy and I have worked together for 16 years on the city board. He has always had Leland at heart,” Thomas said. “I just can’t say enough about Andy and will close with this. He was my friend always and we had some great times together and I know he is looking down on us to do what is best for Leland.”
Petro graduated from Leland High School in 1961 and attended Mississippi State University, remaining a lifelong supporter of MSU football.
Petro was employed with the United States Post Office in Leland for 33 years until retiring at the age of 55. He worked at Fratesi’s Grocery in Leland the past 17 years, where he served as a senior clerk and was the self-proclaimed owner/manager of the store.
With a passion for politics, Petro also served a 16-year term as an Alderman for Ward 4, and was an alderman at the time of his death.
Serving with Petro on the Board of Aldermen for seven years, Leland’s vice mayor Lisa Bush said he will be missed at city hall.
“Andy has been a pleasure to work with for the past seven years that I have served on the Board of Aldermen with him. He was truly an advocate for the City of Leland, and was always committed to improving life for all of its citizens. His greatest passion was the Leland Fire Department, and he often went to great lengths to make sure our firefighters had the best of whatever was required. I will certainly miss Andy’s calm demeanor that I was so accustomed to as we sat around the conference table making decisions for our city,” she said.
Petro was a member of the Mississippi Fire Fighters Association and, in 2004, he received lifetime membership to the Association, the highest honor a firefighter can receive.
At the time of his death, he was serving as vice president of the association’s Northwest Central District. In 2018, he was awarded the Volunteer Firefighter of the Year by the First Responders of Mississippi.
Several firefighters who served with Petro shared memories, including:
* Leland Fire Chief Bobby Johnson: “We’re going to miss a good man. he was very dedicated. I think it caught us all off guard. … I’m sure going to miss him,” he said.
* Volunteer firefighter James Sanders: “I loved when he used to always bring me them skins from Fateezy Grocery. Im gone miss the times he called me Black Juice and Little Mike Columbus every time he seen me. Me and him was all right.”
* Volunteer firefighter and Stop N Shop owner Rob Walters: “He was good at training other firefighters. And trained name how to pump the truck. And I miss him calling me Stop N Shop Rob. He always called me that.”
* Volunteer firefighter Sanfrid Shaifer: “I always enjoyed going to the fire convention with Andy. He knew everybody there and if he did not, he would know them before the weekend was over and he could always come up with some kind of deals while we were there. I will also miss his voice coming on the radio for fire unit five.”
* Volunteer firefighter Sara Moreland Hester: “A broken heart doesn’t even describe how I know every single person who knew and loved Andy Petro feels this morning. When I joined the fire department a couple of years ago, Andy took me under his wing like a daughter and never once backed off from taking care of me. One night, we were eating at Cicero’s and I always sat with Andy, Jimmy and David and usually gave them a hard time about some nonsense they were doing. One night, I sat down and Andy immediately began drilling me with health questions. He asked one after the other for no less than 45 minutes. He wanted to know about the Oreos he ate in the middle of the night, how fasting works, advice on cutting out sugar because sweets and Oreos were his weakness, how your body burns fat, etc. I was so excited he was wanting to better his health and he said he was starting it for sure. Then we talked about the plan, which led to more questions. Supper is over and the conversation came to an end with a new Andy already here and committed at that moment. The waitress comes out and says who wants some pie? Andy, without a second thought, threw that hand up and said ‘Me!’ He just fell out laughing when I stared him down.”
* Volunteer firefighter Lee Chillis: “When I got my certification for water he was the first to congratulate me on a job well done. A good fireman, alderman and friend.”
* Volunteer firefighter Jimmy Sherman: “One year the annual Mississippi Firefighters conference was in DeSoto County. So Andy said we needed to go to Memphis Fire Department alarm headquarters. He acted like he knew what he was talking about so we headed to Memphis. It was a Saturday afternoon and he guided me to this big area in mid-town Memphis with old fire trucks and fire cars. No one was in sight. The were all these signs of “no trespassing,” “authorized personnel only,” etc. We pulled through the gate and he got out and said to come on. I said, ‘Where are you going, we can’t be here.’ He went up to this solid metal door and started banging on it. I went and started hiding behind a bush. Finally this lady came to the door and all I could see was Andy’s arms and hands moving and him pointing over at me. Finally, Andy waived me on and out from the bush I came. The lady was the shift supervisor for the Memphis Fire Department dispatch. We went in and she gave us a complete tour, let us watch and hang around for over an hour as they dispatched fire and EMS calls. It was a great experience and I loved every minute of it. All Andy kept saying was, ‘You stick with me and I will take you places.’”
Petro is survived by his wife of 52 years, Gloria Petro; two sons, Andrew Petro Jr. and Marc Petro; and three grandchildren.
Services are under the direction of Boone Funeral Home, Greenville.