He was born on August 22, 1931, in Walnut Hill. He went to Romine Prairie Grade School and was a graduate of Centralia High School Class of 1948.
He is survived by a daughter Pat (Petrea) Okenica of Greensboro, GA; a son William Petrea of Houston, TX; brother Edwin Petrea of Centralia; grandsons Eddie Okenica of Cumming, GA, Matt Okenica of Jacksonville, FL, Cody Jay of Flora, IL, and Dalton Petrea of Houston, TX; along with numerous but equally important nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife Bonnie (Jenkins) Petrea; brothers Harold (Pete) Petrea; Charles (Chick) Petrea; and sister Edna (Petrea) Mercer.
Ernie was a Korean War Veteran. Following high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was trained as a jet engine mechanic in Amarillo, TX. He was assigned to the 94th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and stationed at George Air Force Base in Victorville, CA, where he served out the remainder of his active duty. It’s during this time that he met one Bonnie Jenkins of David City, NB who would become his future wife and love of his life. They were married in 1956 at the First United Presbyterian Church.
Following his discharge from the military he returned to Centralia and spent the next 30 years working for the U.S. Government as a civilian aircraft mechanic at Scott Airforce Base in O’fallon. He retired in 1985 completing 34 years of service to his country.
Ernie and Bonnie lived their entire married lives in Centralia and were very active in the community. As a long-standing member of the First United Presbyterian Church, Ernie was a proud member of the church choir for 40 years and performed numerous solos for his beloved congregation. His favorite pass times through the years were hunting, fishing, making various woodworking treasures that delighted family and friends. He was also a “die hard” Chicago Cubs fan, frequently commenting that “they were an official Illinois team, not a Missouri team”. Periodically, he would expound, “I’ve eaten Cardinal soup all my life!” Obviously, he was overjoyed when the Cubs finally won the World Series in 2016.
A memorial service will be held at the First United Presbyterian Church on Saturday April 7th with visitation from 10-11 a.m., and a service following in the church sanctuary.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the First United Presbyterian Church designated for the “music and choir ministry.”
Private family graveside services will be held at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Centralia at a later date. Hillcrest Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Centralia is honored to be of service to the Petrea family.
Online condolences may be made to the family by visiting hillcrest1921.com.