Children's State Flower Named In Michaela Petit's Honor

By Christopher Keating and Daniela Altimari

HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed a bill designating four o’clocks as the official children's state flower in honor of a young girl who was murdered in a home invasion in Cheshire in 2007.

The designation is in memory of Michaela Petit, who was 11 when she died.

The bill was proposed by state Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, who lived near the Petit family home. The measure was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The idea had been championed by Michaela's father, Dr. William Petit Jr., who was the only survivor of the home invasion that also resulted in the death of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and the couple's oldest daughter, Hayley.

The four-o'clocks that Michaela and her father planted in the family’s garden were among the few items that could be salvaged from the Petit home, which had been set on fire.

In a letter to a legislative committee, Dr. Petit wrote, “There are many serious issues facing our state, but this gesture to honor a sweet little girl who was taken too soon is a simple way to honor her and inspire other children to participate and help others.”

Connecticut has long had a state flower, the mountain laurel. But supporters said that designating four o'clocks as the official children's flower as a tribute to Michaela would help spread her message of generosity and kindness.

“Before her murder, Michaela had discovered Gandhi,” her father recalled. “She was known to be a quiet friend to all and a defender of the underdog.”

The Petit Family Foundation has already collected seeds from Michaela's flowers and planted them in nearly a dozen Michaela's Gardens across the state, including at the Yale University Marsh Botanical Garden in New Haven and in a rooftop garden at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.