Dr. Harvey Partridge was the kind of veterinarian who put his home number in the phone book.
That meant calls from pet owners could come at any time, even in the middle of the night. As a kid, David Partridge would sometimes wake up to his dad inviting him to come to his St. Petersburg clinic to help with the late-night calls.
That passion and dedication embodied Harvey Partridge’s practice. It was a career made possible by his wife Pat’s rock solid support behind the scenes, watching the couple’s two sons, David and Matthew, and working alongside her husband at their well-known clinic, Partridge Animal Hospital.
“My dad promised her that he was going to be a veterinarian, and they were going to be able to live a good life,” said David Partridge, 41. "And he did it.”
The couple died Sunday night when their plane crashed in Raleigh, N.C. They were both 72. Harvey Partridge would have turned 73 on Oct. 26.
For more than half a century, Harvey and Pat were a team. They grew up together in Mount Dora and got married at the age of 20.
“They were such a great fit for one another because he was able to concentrate on his career and she took care of everything else, including the kids," David Patridge said. "He wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.”
The couple had just attended a reunion for Harvey Partridge’s veterinary school class at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and were on their way to meet friends in North Carolina, the son said. They were nearing Raleigh-Durham International Airport when authorities said their Piper PA-32 disappeared from radar at about 7:25 p.m.
A search was launched, and North Carolina officials announced Monday that they found the couple and the wreckage of their plane at a nearby state park.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was examining the crash scene on Tuesday, said agency spokesman Keith Holloway. A preliminary report on the crash will likely be released within the next 10 days.
As news of the couple’s death spread this week, veterinarians and pet lovers from across Tampa Bay mourned. Harvey Partridge’s wealth of knowledge was matched only by his compassion, they said.
“There was never a dog he couldn’t save,” said Jaime McKnight, owner of Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue.
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That included Jaxson, a French bulldog who last year developed a hole in his heart. Harvey Partridge flew McKnight and Jaxson to Gainesville for the surgery that saved his life.
One St. Petersburg veterinarian credited the Partridges for helping shape her career. Dr. Barbara Antz-Hanson, who owns Grand Central Veterinary Hospital, said it was their encouragement that got her to attend veterinary school in the first place.
Antz-Hanson, 62, had dropped out of Lakewood High School when she met Harvey Partridge at a local stable where she kept her horse, Abraxas. Partridge was fresh out of school and working with large animals. He was always willing to give advice and answer questions, she said.
Working at the stable inspired Antz-Hanson to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. But could she do it with just a GED, newly married at age 18? Partridge encouraged her to enroll in classes at St. Petersburg Junior College.
He kept pushing for her to continue her schooling, even after her marriage ended and she found herself a single mother. You’re smart enough, he told her. You can make it work.
And she did, transferring to the University of Florida to finish out her Bachelor’s degree, then enrolling in the veterinary school there with Partridge’s letter of recommendation in hand.
“I feel very fortunate that I was able to have the career that I dreamt of, and he was very integral in making that happen," Antz-Hanson said. "He and his wife. They were inseparable and they were very supportive of me.”
At home, the Partridges were loving parents who enjoyed traveling and, for Harvey Partridge, fishing. The couple got their first airplane in the mid-1990s and have had several since then.
“The guy’s a really, really good pilot,” David Partridge said of his father.
Their true pride and joy, he said, were his sons, their grandchildren: 10-year-old Shane and 7-year-old Ethan.
It’s been several months since David Partridge last saw his parents. He’s in the Army and had to move to Texas in April. But they spoke often.
They texted him Sunday morning to let him know they were headed to Raleigh. Okay, he told them. Be safe.