Dr. Weldon Petz, former Farmington Schools principal and renowned expert on President Abraham Lincoln, died Thursday. He was 88 years old.
Visitation will be held at on 12 Mile Road west of Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills today, 3 p.m.-8 p.m. and Monday, 2 p.m.- 8 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, at Franklin Community Church, 26425 Wellington Road, in Franklin.
In the late 1990s, the Plymouth Historical Museum purchased Petz's substantial collection of Lincoln memorabilia, including rare family photographs, a book Lincoln owned as a boy, a life mask of Lincoln circa 1860, and even a lock of Lincoln's hair – along with more than 1,200 books, articles and other archival items.
"We are devastated," said Donna Keough, the historical museum's exhibits coordinator. "It's hard to keep dry eyes. We're very, very sad."
She described Petz as "a father figure, just a giant of a man with a huge heart, so knowledgeable, and yet he was humble. He really loved people and he just wanted so much to share the love, of Lincoln particularly, with others. We just have a huge hole in our hearts."
Petz's picture is in the Lincoln exhibit, and there's a carving of him superimposed over Abraham Lincoln, both draped in black. In addition to sharing his collection, he was a frequent speaker on Lincoln topics.
"He has come many times to give lectures either at teas we've had about Mary Todd Lincoln, or about Abraham Lincoln or about Abraham Lincoln music," Keough said. "He just had a love for this museum and had generously given of his time and talent and treasures for that matter, to kind of help us tell the story."
Petz also had a large Santa Claus collection that he loaned the museum this past winter for their Santa Magic exhibit. He began collecting at a very young age, Keough said.
"One of the reasons he picked the museum is because he wanted his collection to be out and seen, and some of the archival stuff to be actually utilized for research," Keough said. "He was proud to bring friends and visitors to the museum himself and say, basically, here it is. He was a treasure."
Although Petz was very ill, this past February he gave a lecture to residents of the assisted living center in which he lived, Keough added.
Petz is survived by his wife, Shirley; children Cheryl L. Shirtz and her husband, James, and Mark A. Petz and his wife, Diane; grandchildren Michael and his wife, Pamela, Kristopher, Jennifer, and Danielle. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the Alzheimer’s Association, or Franklin Community Church.