UCSB’s radio station staff took a moment of silence Tuesday night to commemorate the life of long-time programmer and D.J. Michael Petrini, who died Aug. 30 in a landscaping-related accident.
Members of KCSB-FM 91.9 invited Petrini’s family to a 6:30 p.m. memorial, held at the Gaucho Cafe in the UCen, to remember the role he played in the campus radio community. Several staff members spoke about their memories of Petrini, and gave copies of e-mails sent after his death and radio shows played in his honor to Petrini’s parents.
Petrini, 40, had worked at KCSB since 1992 as a programmer, a D.J. on his show Pure Blues, and a volunteer for many different organizations. A Santa Barbara native, Petrini devoted much of his time to the Santa Barbara Mission. He was working there as a groundskeeper when his power mower overturned, crushing him beneath it.
Petrini, who was developmentally disabled, at first struggled to get his own show and develop a smooth radio persona, KCSB advisor Elizabeth Robinson said in an e-mail sent out to radio station staff.
“Mike typified what KCSB and community radio should be about: a place for all the voices,” Robinson said. “In many areas of his life, Mike had to struggle to find a fit in this world … However, there were three areas where I know – because he told me – that he was at home: working outdoors at places like the zoo and the mission, with his family, and at KCSB, which was very much like family for him.”
Petrini’s father, Julio Petrini, said his son had worked at the Santa Barbara Zoo, Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort and Alpha Thrift Shop, but had found his niche at KCSB.
“Michael used to be really shy, and then when he landed this job at the radio station, it was amazing to us that he could talk on the radio and ad-lib,” Julio Petrini said. “He really came out of his shell; it made him a more complete person … He loved music beyond belief. He had something like 550 records, and untold CDs and tapes. Music, gardening, and friends and family were his life… He was a giving person that never expected anything in return. He didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘no.'”
Tom Borghi, better known as D.J. Gene Pool at KCSB, said he remembered Petrini best by the way he was always genuinely concerned about his friends and co-workers, and how Petrini was always happy to help others.
“I went to the memorial service at the mission, and everybody said pretty much the same thing – he was willing to help,” Borghi said. “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘How can I help?’ … He was always concerned about people. If it was rainy or foggy, he would always say to drive carefully, or [he would ask] how my mom was. He was so nice that it rubbed off on other people.”
Julio Petrini said the number of friends who attended his funeral could measure the impact his son had on people.
“His was the largest funeral ever at the mission. They estimated 750 people came,” he said. “It was a phenomenon. A lot of people came up to us and said Mike had changed their lives.”
KCSB’s Chief Engineer Bryan Brown said one of Petrini’s habits was to support his co-workers by calling in to their shows, even at 2 a.m.
“He was a great guy,” Brown said. “He was almost everybody’s first caller. He somehow familiarized himself with every show on the air. In a lot of ways, he was what made KCSB KCSB, in that everybody gets an opportunity here – he brought out the best in the station.”
Programmer and D.J. Stanley Naftaly said he looked forward to Petrini’s phone calls and the long discussions of blues and jazz the two often had.
“He was a very sunny human being and one of the most sincere people I’ve ever met in my life,” Naftaly said. “He was labeled developmentally disabled, and I can’t say it’s not true. But he was a simple, straightforward human being who loved people… he would call me every week and tell me what a good job I was doing and talk about music or ask me questions.”
Petrini’s mother, Madeline Petrini, said working at UCSB was a special time for her son.
“Michael never went to college, but this was a place he revered,” she said. “He was so proud he could work here, and so happy.”
Petrini is survived by his parents Julio and Madeline, his brother Rick, and his sister Barbara.