Peter Frederick Hrul was born in Boston in June of 1944, the first child to 26 year old Peter Senior and 22 year old Rita Claire. He had beautiful baby blue eyes that would sparkle for the next 74 years and charm everyone he met. He wasn’t an only child for long however, with siblings Bernard, Thomas, Paul, Michele, Rita, Eddy and Dennis following closely behind.
Peter’s adventures as a child: there were many. He had the ideal life for a boy in the 1950s, plenty of places in the city to explore, brothers as co-conspirators, and parents who let him roam. Peter, Bernard and Paul would explore the Tobin Bridge while it was still under construction, and slide down the girders. There were many camping and fishing trips, and lots of time outdoors. Once when the boys were ice fishing, they made a fire with poison ivy: Peter breathed in the smoke and got poison ivy inside his lungs! It was during his childhood that he first learned to tinker, from his father and his uncle Stanley. Stanley owned a hardware store on the first floor of the triple-decker where they lived, and it offered a great environment for Pete loved to poke around and learn about tools. Foreshadowing his future life as an engineer, an ever curious young Pete explored the inner workings of clocks, radios, and other items, taking them apart and putting them back together. Teen-aged Pete would scavenge in the Chelsea junkyard, sometimes running away from the junkyard dogs. Pete’s brothers recounted the longest trip the family took as children: a long ride to Ohio to visit his Aunt Wanda and Uncle Al in a homemade trailer his grandfather made. The kids slept in it every night.
As a young man, Peter set a wonderful example for his family: he was always well dressed, social, very knowledgeable about many topics, and the kind of big brother you could look up to and ask about anything. As the oldest, he was the first in the family to do everything children do; the first to unlock life achievements: to ski, to travel abroad, to buy a car, and even to buy a foreign car (Paul: “I know that sounds weird- but it was a big deal!”). After graduation from Boston Latin School in 1962, he entered Northeastern University, joined an engineering fraternity located on Commonwealth Avenue, Beta Gamma Epsilon, and studied electrical engineering. Pete said that during his college years mechanical engineering was the big deal, but “EE” was gaining momentum and seemed like the way to go for a future job. He had a co-op job he loved at the naval shipyard, and he graduated from Northeastern in 1967.
His first job out of college took him to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked for Westinghouse on radar systems for military jets. He bought his first car there, a 1967 navy blue Mustang convertible. His siblings loved the car, with Paul putting almost as many miles on it as Peter. Soon he was promoted, trained for field work and sent to Vietnam as a civilian, as a field engineer for Westinghouse. During his time in Vietnam, he was able to spend time off the base and really explore more than many were allowed at that time, eating at local restaurants and learning about the people of the area. He documented his time in Vietnam on tapes which, over a period of two to three years, he mailed back to his family in Arlington, so his younger brother and sisters and his parents could listen to his stories.
In 1972 Peter was transferred to Germany, where he worked as a Technical Representative for the Westinghouse Space and Defense Center. He met his first wife, Judith, in Kaufbeuren. But what he really did in Europe was learn how to travel, and travel well. He took wonderful advantage of his time there to visit as many places as possible. He would drive to Paris just for the weekend, leaving right after he got home from work, driving straight through, spending all day Saturday and Sunday in Paris and not returning until Sunday night. When he was living in northern Germany, he traveled frequently to The Netherlands: Amsterdam, Edam, and Gouda, seeing the tulips, visiting places like Madurodam, a miniature village with Gary and Mark, his step sons. He took a road trip to the Riviera, stopping in to Monaco, Nice and the towns along the way. He visited Provence and the Mediterranean. He skied in the Alps. And, of course, he explored many cities and towns all over Germany and Switzerland.
In 1976 Peter returned to the United States with Judith, Mark and Gary to raise his daughter Christine, who was born in Newport News, Virginia. While Christine was a baby, Peter attended graduate school at night and got his MBA and continued to work for Westinghouse at Langley Air Force Base. In 1980 he moved with his family to Baltimore where he worked in defense marketing for Westinghouse.
In 1988 he moved to Lunenburg, MA, finally returning to his roots and his family in New England. He was on the planning board in Lunenburg, where he helped to develop the town’s first recycling plans. With his brother Tommy, he purchased a lake house in Unity, New Hampshire, where he spent many weekends skiing at nearby Mount Sunapee and Killington resorts. In the summer, he had a green canoe and explored the cover of Crescent Lake. He built his daughter a tree-house, and a dollhouse. He taught his daughter how to ski, and drive a stick shift, how to use tools and a computer, hang wallpaper, put on a record, make chili, kayak, put up a tent, and how to garden. He taught himself how to tap maple trees and make maple syrup, filling the kitchen with billowing sweet steamy air for days at a time, with his family and friends being the lucky recipients of his various grades of glass bottled amber syrup every year. He had beautifully maintained yards and gardens at all of his homes, growing everything from tomatoes to rhubarb.
Peter met his wife Nanda Salvitti and married her at a spectacular wedding celebration in 2001. They bought a beautiful home in Norfolk and settled in to 18 wonderful years there together. It was their forever home, and they were a wonderful team working to improve and decorate it to their exact liking. Peter spent the last portion of his working years working as a job trainer and a technical writer.
The travel bug that started when he was young never subsided. In the last twenty years of his life, Nanda and Pete traveled extensively, returning to Europe, revisiting old favorites and seeing many new places. Spain was a particularly favorite destination, and he thoroughly enjoyed Ireland, Scotland and England. He loved to give people travel tips and his daughter Christine went on an unforgettable trip to the Cotswolds with her family largely planned by Pete. When at home, he was constantly exploring the East Coast; when he and Nanda visited Christine and her family in California they toured the West Coast. Even in his last weeks, he was still enthusiastically making travel plans for the summer.
A lifelong camera hobbyist and photographer, Pete spent his life behind the lens. He took hundreds of thousands of photographs on his travels and at home throughout his life, leaving a life well documented. Soon after settling in Norfolk he joined the Gateway Camera Club, where he met many new friends and continued his passion of lifelong learning and personal development. He was both the treasurer and the president of the club.
Everyone who met Pete came away understanding his unique qualities and zest for life. He never had to tell anyone that he was living life to its fullest, it was evident in everything he did.
He was an avid reader and lover of public libraries. Librarians always knew who he was and that he’d be checking out a large stack of eclectic selections. He was a lifelong fan of NPR, and the kind of person who still read the newspaper because it’s important. He was a curious musicologist who always had something new playing, from Celtic music blasting on his stereo in the living room to road trip oldies on the radio in the car, Italian ballads or French Christmas carols, you’d never know what you’d be hearing on Radio Pete. He loved the fiddle and picking, and learned to play the basics on mandolin. He loved to try new foods, and make new foods. He enjoyed foods other people found unusual, and encouraged people to try them as well. His home is full of thousands of books, but especially non-fiction books, covering topics in every area, from birding to career advice, marketing to travel to gardening. He loved history, old photographs and family lore, and helped put together our family tree and collected anecdotes from his father and other relatives. He was the ideal father and grandfather, and loved children, especially babies. He’d grown up helping his mother with his brothers and sisters, but it was really a natural talent he had, how to soothe a crying infant, how to capture a child’s imagination with something as simple as cutting open a coconut. But he was equally good with older people, patient, an excellent listener and friend to his parents and Nanda’s as well. He gave everyone the same respect, regardless of age.
Pete loved life. He was always exploring, taking on a project, puttering around on something or researching a new area of interest. He was full of energy.
There was one area of research that held his attention his entire life: his health. When he was diagnosed with lymphoma everyone knew immediately this would be his project until he could beat it. Drawing on a lifetime’s worth of reading on wellness as well as his indefatigable spirit helped him fight cancer “harder than anyone I’ve ever known” as his niece put it. He was cancer’s foe, but he would beat it with reason, determination and dignity. Every time he had a setback he put his chin up and smiled. His doctors and nurses loved treating him because he was so positive. It got harder, for sure, but we all know he never, ever gave up and vehemently wanted to live.
Steve Jobs said, “Death is the destination we all share. Although nobody wants to die, death is perhaps the most essential thing about life. It clears away the old and makes way for the new. Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life, or be trapped by dogma which is being trapped by other people’s thinking. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you want to become.” Peter Hrul always followed his heart and never wasted any time. He was so full of life even when he knew he was facing death, that none of us can have any doubt his spirit, vim and vigor will live on in all of us. We remember forever his ability to take life and live it to its fullest even in the smallest of interactions and most fleeting gestures and moments. He was given this gift by God and I believe it was in order to light up the lives of those who loved him. May we remember his twinkling eyes, his laugh, his curious nature, his energy and his kindness. Thank you Peter. Thank you Dad. Thank you grandpa. Thank you friend. We love you.
Beloved husband of Nanda S. (Salvitti) Hrul.
Loving father of Mark Dieter Grabowski of Smithfield, RI, Gary Paul Grabowski and his wife, Jane, of Finksburg, MD, and Christine Johnson of Los Angeles, CA.
Cherished grandfather of Alyssa Grabowski of Smithfield, RI, Christopher, Erich, and Andrew Grabowski of Finksburg, MD, Astrid, Rowland, and Malcolm Johnson of Los Angeles, CA, and Rosalie Apodaca of Los Angeles, California.
Devoted son of Rita C. (McCarthy) Hrul of Arlington and the late Peter Hrul.
Brother of Bernard Hrul of GA, Thomas Hrul of Winchester, Edward Hrul of Winchester, Michele Cosgrove of Byfield, Paul Hrul of Rowley, Rita Hyde of Braintree, and Dennis Hrul of Westford.
Also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend Peter’s visitation on Sunday from 2 to 6 PM and Monday from 10 to 10:20 AM in the James H. Delaney & Son Funeral Home, 48 Common Street, Walpole. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Saint Mary’s Church, 130 South Street (Route 1A), Wrentham on Monday at 11:00 AM. Interment will be private at the request of Peter’s family. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: Dana Farber Cancer Institute, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284-9168.
In memory of Peter Frederick Hrul, 1944-2019.