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John Keels Pettit Jr.

December 15, 1942 – February 9, 2022

Obituary John K. Pettit Jr

Courtesy of the Pettit family

John Keels Pettit Jr.

John Keels Pettit Jr. passed away fearlessly yet peacefully on February 9, 2022 with his family by his side, in the Laguna Beach home he built. He was 80 years young.

John was born and raised in La Jolla, Calif. Often referred to as “Felix” or “Big J” by friends and family, he developed an affinity for adventuring and the outdoors at a young age. One of the original members of the renowned Wind N Sea Surf Club, John was an avid surfer & diver through his teens, but would soon after transition into a well-rounded waterman, heading commercial fishing charters from San Diego to South America. After honing his skills in the Pacific Ocean, John took a hiatus from Southern California and ventured to the mountains landing in Sun Valley, Idaho. There he built his first home in the form of a log cabin and began pursing what would become his new passions – white water kayaking and skiing. John’s amiable character and eager nature resonated with the resident “crew” who immediately took him under their wing. He absorbed everything the local outdoorsmen threw his way and became a staple in the community; guiding rafting and kayak tours during summer, and doing avalanche control for the Sun Valley Ski Patrol in the winter.

Just when John thought he had found his forever home, he met a young brunette artist from Laguna Beach by the name of Holly Ann Nichols; the love of his life whom he would spend the next 44 years with.

Upon starting a family, John packed up his mountain life and headed back to Southern California, residing in Laguna Beach with Holly. As an experienced carpenter, John would build Holly’s booths at the Sawdust Festival each summer, where she would showcase her ceramic talents. During this time John would also refocus his attention back to the ocean and master celestial navigation, earning his captain’s license in the process. From there he proceeded to conduct local charters on a famous wooden schooner in Dana Point called the Kelpie and led long-distance charters from Hawaii to California chasing the Transpac Race. Captain John was a worthy seaman.

John and Holly’s family quickly grew from one to four, which led John to pursue a safer form of employment…endeavoring to take up building full time. With a knack for geometry and an eye for style, he created a niche role for himself doing custom stair design. As an independent contractor for developers at the time, John, with a small crew, had a hand in building many homes in what is now the greater Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills area.

John retired from building at the ripe age of 65, in-turn focusing his energy on both the Single-Handed Sailing Race Circuit and Theology. As John’s study and knowledge of Christianity grew, so did his faith, which he carried with great pride to the end.

John was a devoted husband, loving father and a truly selfless individual. He will be remembered as a man whose goodness, honesty and strength of character always led him to defend what he believed in with certainty and one who stood up for others wholeheartedly. He is survived by his wife Holly, children Chelsea, Blake and Dustin, son in-law Brian, daughter in-laws Eva and Alex, grandchildren Mason, Harper, Blakely, Breck, Briar and Wallace, Brother Ralph and his dog, Caleb.