Man's will committed to acts of generosity

November 22, 1994|By New York Daily News

NEW YORK -- At least 383 lucky people will be remembering Milton Petrie at Thanksgiving.

In life, the philanthropist and retailer often was compared to TV's "The Millionaire" for his random acts of generosity to injured police, disaster victims and other strangers he'd read about in the newspapers.

In death, Mr. Petrie only enhanced his reputation.

Though his widow, Carroll Petrie, his children and other family members are amply provided for in his will, Mr. Petrie, who died Nov. 6, set aside $90 million of his $940 million fortune for hundreds of friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Featured prominently among those listed in his will were the same types of folks Mr. Petrie helped in life: slain police officers' families, widows, orphans, victims of fires or other disasters.

"He was just the kindest, most loving person you could imagine," said Cordelia Fuller, the mother of slain Transit Police Officer Robert Venable, who will receive $5,000 a year for the rest of her life. The money will supplement Ms. Fuller's salary as a registered nurse and help defray the cost of rearing her granddaughter, Januari.

"Mr. Petrie used to call all the time to ask me how I was doing, and he'd send checks in the thousands," she said. "He even told me he was going to remember me in his will. I hope they have a memorial service for him, because I'll be there."

Gregory Condolucci of the Bronx felt like he'd won the lottery when informed him yesterday he'd be getting nearly $10,000 a year -- every year for the rest of his life.

Now 85 and retired from his job as an elevator operator at Mr. Petrie's tennis club, Mr. Condolucci hadn't even laid eyes on Mr. Petrie since 1958.

But the magnate remembered him.

Mr. Petrie "was just a giant of a man," said Ruth Dran of Bayonne, N.J., who worked for 23 years as a supervisor for his conglomerate, Petrie Stores, and who was remembered in the will.

"He was brilliant at business, a very tough, stern businessman," she said. "But underneath he had a heart."

Ms. Dran recalled the many times Mr. Petrie quietly helped people out. "These were the things that never got into the newspaper," she said.

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