Retired Trooper Harold D. Petty Sr.

Retired Trooper Harold D. Petty Sr. ( )

Harold D. Petty Sr., a retired Maryland state trooper whose career spanned 25 years, died Friday of cancer at his farm in Darlington, Harford County. He was 76.

The son of farmers, Harold Dean Petty Sr. was born in Galax, Va., and moved with his family near the end of World War II to a farm in Hickory in Harford County.

They later purchased a farm in Darlington, where the young Mr. Petty worked before going to school each morning.

He graduated from North Harford High School in 1955 and three years later from the state police academy.

Mr. Petty served with the state police during the 1963 civil rights protest in Cambridge, and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, he was part of a large law enforcement contingent composed of police, state police, National Guard and Army soldiers, who brought order in the aftermath of riots that swept Baltimore.

He was on the scene on Dec. 8, 1963, when Pan American Airways flight 214 crashed after being struck by lightning near Elkton, killing 81 passengers.

"He had the unpleasant task of walking through a dark cornfield with a flashlight gathering up body parts and taking them to a makeshift morgue," said Ted Shelsby, a brother-in-law and retired Baltimore Sun reporter, who lives in Darlington.

Mr. Petty retired in 1984.

He worked for another 17 years at Clark Hardware in Darlington, where he specialized in making hydraulic hoses for tractors and other pieces of equipment. He also enjoyed restoring vintage tractors.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Harkins Funeral Home, 600 Main St., Delta, Pa.

Mr. Petty is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Anna Rae "Sue" McCann, a retired switchboard operator who worked for Harford County public schools; three sons, Harold D. Petty Jr. of Street, Phillip A. Petty of Darlington and George R. Petty of Jarrettsville; three daughters, Kris N. Hamilton of Churchville, Cheryl R. Roark of Bel Air and Rebecca L. Dawson of Darlington; three brothers, Thomas Petty of Street, William R. Petty of Churchville and R.L. "Pete" Petty of Darlington; two sisters, Kathy Hammock of Delta, Pa., and Virginia Catron of Hoquiam, Wash.; 13 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com