See more of the story

Patrick Petit always asked his grandchildren for advice. He spent his life eager to learn from others, no matter their age or background.

And in his final moments, he had his own sage words to share. On a phone call with family members, he had a simple directive: "Be happy, be kind and keep learning."

Petit, of Minneapolis, died April 7 of COVID-19 complications after a week in a Twin Cities hospital. He was 82.

"He didn't have much financially in his life, but he was very committed to being present for everyone in his life and appreciating a diverse range of people," said his daughter, Moira Petit, of St. Paul.

Petit grew up in St. Paul, the son of two immigrants — his mother from Ireland and his father from France. He joined the Navy after graduating from what was then Cretin High School and served for five years before doctors detected a heart murmur and he was discharged.

He received his bachelor's degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and his master's degree in education at the University of Kansas. He did research for his doctorate program in Aberdeen, Scotland, a place he visited repeatedly in his life.

He then taught sociology at Monteith College, part of Wayne State, before returning to the Twin Cities, where he worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Postal Service.

In retirement, he enjoyed meeting friends for coffee and political discussions, woodworking and fishing with his grandchildren.

After his death, his family hosted a Zoom call to share photos and memories. They plan to have a celebration of life when they can gather together.

Petit chose not to be placed on a ventilator, his daughter said. Though his family was unable to be physically with him, two nurses stayed by his side and played music as he died.

In their final conversation, Moira Petit asked her father if there was anything else he wanted. He quietly said he was at peace with dying. "But what does anyone want except for to live?" he told her.

In recent weeks, his daughter has heard from many people their memories of the ways Petit made them feel special and loved.

"I had no idea how many people felt close to him," she said. "He lived his life with a lot of humility, and it was always about how he could show up for other people."

Other survivors include his son Colin Petit of Plymouth; four grandchildren; his sister Ruthie of Lakeville; and his former wife, Libby, of St. Paul.