Mar 24, 2013

Beloved member of Petit Family Passes

Very, very sad news.

Dennis Chapman, 66, husband of Johanna Petit Chapman and brother-in-law of Dr. William Petit Jr., died unexpectedly at his Plainville home Friday.

Dr. Petit Jr.was the sole survivor of a brutal 2007 home invasion robbery and murder in Cheshire. His wife, Jen-nifer Hawke-Petit, and two daughters, Hayley and Michaela, were killed.
Dennis Chapman was heavily involved in the Petit Family Foundation and was the founder of Michaela’s Garden Project. The garden project was started after family members went to the charred remains of the home to salvage what they could of the family’s belongings and the garden was found with 11-year-old Michaela Petit’s favorite flowers, four o’clocks.
The flowers were dug up by Dennis Chapman, taken to his home in Plainville and replanted, according to Johanna Chapman. For the past three years, under Dennis Chapman’s guidance, the four o’clocks have been replanted from seeds harvested from the original plants. With the aid of volunteers, about 5,000 plants have been produced from the original garden and the seeds from those plants are sold in packets as a fundraiser for the foundation. Now, those seeds are planted all over the state, country and even overseas, his wife said.
Monday, the family was dealing with the loss of not just an instrumental part of the foundation, but a family member.
“I don’t think I have the words to describe the loss,” said Chapman’s father-in-law, William Petit Sr. “He is the one who came up with the idea for the garden, made the program, and circulated it throughout the state.”
Dennis Chapman, who was the Connecticut Lottery’s vice president for marketing and sales until his retirement a number of years ago, also provided outreach help for the foundation.
“Whenever someone asked him to do anything, he was our go-to man,” Petit Sr. said.
“He was a very kind, tender and gentle man, not a big talker,” Johanna Chapman said.
She added that he was always a farm boy at heart, “you could never take the farm out of him.”
The reason he started Michaela’s Garden Project was because “he wanted a way to keep her spirit going,” she said.
“With his nature, it was just another nice thing he could do to make people feel good,” she said. “Everybody at some point in their life has planted something. Like my mother said, ‘this is the one thing I can grow.’ ”
From the Record Journal Meriden.