EEA Remembers a Dear Friend and Determined Leader through Mini-Grants for Environmental Education

PETEY GIROUX DRAGONFLY GRANTS PROGRAM Making the world a better place…one project at a time

In honor of her life of service and legacy of environmental education through the arts, the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia has established the Petey Giroux Dragonfly Grants program. The program will provide mini-grant awards up to $1,000 for projects that use the power of performing and/or visual arts to enhance environmental education.

Petey Giroux served as conference chair, president and advisory board chair of the Environmental Education Alliance (EEA) of Georgia, contributing greatly to the successful organization it is today. At the annual conference in March 2008, EEA honored Petey with the Eugene Odum Lifetime Achievement Award.

Petey once summed up her life philosophy when her daughter, Lynne, asked her for career advice: “It’s finding the path that allows you to give the best of yourself to others and the earth, and sharing your time and talents with others in a way that makes positive change. It’s love.”

In her short life, Petey found her path, shared of herself and made positive change. The Dragonfly Grants Program is designed to honor Petey’s memory by helping other passionate environmental educators make the world a better place, one project at a time.

Petey - Mom, storyteller, teacher, student, artist, organizer and VISIONARY

Anyone who knew Petey knew how committed she was to making the world a better place. Her enthusiasm for people and the planet was so great she developed an enormous and diverse network of friends and fans.

Some people knew her as the dedicated parent who created entertaining and educational characters to teach kids about environmental issues. (There was the garbage-strewn Waste Watcher, endangered Canis rufus, mother earth Earthina, and freshwater songstress Momma Bass, all starring Petey).

Others learned how to bring Petey’s creative teaching strategies to their indoor and outdoor classrooms through the almost countless workshops she conducted across the state – as the first ever chair of environmental education for Georgia PTA and then as the first coordinator of Georgia Project WET (Water Education for Teachers).

Still others knew Petey as a Twilight Twirler (majorettes at least 45 years old), strutting her stuff and spinning her baton up and down parade-filled streets. Then there are the African drummers with whom she donned a Dashiki and pounded away on percussion instruments. And her outdoor education graduate school cohorts (who were less than half her age -- sorry, Petey) knew her as a consummate storyteller who made their trip to the Boundary Waters exciting and memorable.

Petey helped establish the Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center and directed the Parks as Classrooms program for the National Park Service. As an environmental outreach coordinator for the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Petey championed environmental education through the arts by inspiring teachers statewide to participate in such programs as “River of Words,” a national art and poetry contest that encourages students to know their watershed. Petey also left her magic mark on Project WET USA, the Georgia Aquarium and the Georgia Conservancy (they’ll never be the same).

Regardless of how you knew Petey, you knew she was a determined leader. Wearing “the mommy shoes” as she called them, she helped her own children become vibrant, successful young women. Through her children’s schools she became involved in the Georgia Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and after serving in many leadership positions at the school and district level, Petey was invited to create the position of environmental chairperson at the state level. She transformed the work of PTAs throughout Georgia by making environmental education a priority. In July of 2008 Georgia PTA honored Petey with its Visionary Award.

Peter Pan, Xena the Warrior Princess, Harry Potter, the Dragonfly and Petey

Petey’s birth name, Mary Martin, was shared by the Broadway actress in the title role of “Peter Pan.” Her nickname “Petey” was a perfect fit because she possessed a childlike wonder for the natural world and a commitment to having fun. Like Peter Pan, “she never wanted to grow up,” said her daughter, Courtenay.

Petey brought her creative spirit to her battle with pancreatic cancer. The year she was diagnosed, Petey celebrated her favorite holiday, Halloween, by becoming Xena, the Warrior Princess, to fight the disease that she referred to, as Harry Potter might, “The ‘c’ that shall not be named.” For her 63rd birthday that year, 45 friends joined Petey for a “pajama party” in the North Georgia mountains. Party guests wore Viking helmets, pirate hats, sequined caps and other costuming from Petey’s impressive collection.

On July 30, 2008, after a nearly yearlong courageous battle with pancreatic cancer, our dear Petey passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family. Petey’s daughter helped her on her journey by telling Petey to “go on and fly, that she would come back as a dragonfly.” Petey loved dragonflies because like them, she was connected to the water, the land and the sky. Since Petey’s passing, friends and family members have had “unusual” encounters with dragonflies that have made them smile with sweet memories.

On October 25, 2008, Petey’s friends and family gathered outdoors to celebrate her extraordinary life. It was a one-of-a-kind event in true Petey style complete with an African drumming circle and a parade featuring the Twilight Twirlers, costumed performers, and a raucous marching band.

Petey Giroux leaves behind a legacy of public service and creative educational programs that enhanced the lives of Georgia's citizens, particularly its children. Her lifelong devotion to environmental protection, education and animals won her many awards, but more importantly it won her the love and respect of all those who knew her.

Petey Giroux AKA Earthina

Photo by Dell Pamplin