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ROBERT M. PATEK M.D. Obituary
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January 31, 2015

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January 31, 2015

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November 2, 2014
REMEMBERING BOB PATEK AND HIS INFLUENCE ON ME

I have known Bob Patek since high school; we were teammates at Michigan and went into the same profession. We were friendly but not really friends as we never once spoke on the phone or even had a beer together. As chance would have it I just thought about Bob tonight- he just came into my head and I was going to drop him a line and catch up with him when I found out he passed- what a loss for us all.
This is the type of loss that gives you considerable pause and reflection about everything and it is the second such loss for me in the past 2 years. I never actually told Bob or anybody else about how great Bob was because guys from our era just did not do that so I will recount it for you now.
Bob went to North Farmington High and I went to Detroit Country Day down the road. He was a senior on his way to Michigan to play for Bo when I was a junior. I was a wrestler and the first time we met I was wrestling at the N. Farmington gym and he was shooting hoops walking around very confidently and even though he was missing the 20 foot shots he continued undaunted. The N. Farmington wrestling coach told us Bob was on his way to play for Bo. We met, he was in great shape and I did not give it much thought at the time because so was I and I simply did not believe he was all that- mostly because I thought I was all that.
After my senior year at DCDS I also went up to Michigan to play football- as a walk on. Guess who was up there and taking care of business- Bob Patek. If I had to sum up Bob on the field of play in 6 words I would say he was: always cool, always tough, always class. Bob epitomized the great student athlete that I also aspired to be he truly did and I can say that because I witnessed him doing it first hand -for decades.
Jack Harbough, the defensive back coach at Michigan at the time – and yes the father of Jim and John- gave Bob the nickname “bullet” Bob Patek. Bob never broke down before he hit an opposing player and he would deliver a serious blow usually a helmet to helmet hit. Football was truly football then as there was no pushing and shoving and holding, we were hitting people. Jack gave Bob the nickname ‘Bullet Bob” in the film room during two a day practice my freshman year in 76 his sophomore year because of the devastating hits Bob would deliver. I was sitting right there when Jack Harbough said to everyone listening “ Patek never breaks down before a hit he just sells out a 110% - Bullet Bob- I am going to call you Bullet Bob Patek from now on” and that name stuck and was well deserved. Case in point Bob was a second stringer as a sophomore- quite an accomplishment in itself- and was at the end of the field with the Defensive coaches and the offensive demonstration team. The demonstration team- usually 3rd and 4th stringers freshman and sophomores and walk on's like me- would run the opposition's offense or defense for the first and second team. Bob a sophomore was on the second team so he would go against the demonstration team –Demo- of the offense. Tuesday and Wednesday practices were full go live dress rehearsal practices that were quite often very spirited – translation- there was often some serious hitting going on and in fact it was encouraged by the coaches and we loved it – it was football, Michigan football.
Well one particular day Bob was sent down from the second team to the defensive Demo team that happened from time to time for many players as it was quite motivational. Bob did not take it well AT ALL and in fact he responded to it like it was a demotion. What happened next was something that I had never seen or heard of before or after. Everyone was surprised to see Bob with us. He looked directly at me with a meaningful look of “let's go get them “. First play was an option pitched to the tailback Huck with the fullback Russell Davis-230 pounder- out front to block. They all got to the corner at the same time and BOOM!!! Bullet Bob arrived and he clearly had bad intentions- he blew up the play completely. Bo ran it back as was the custom to get the play performed correct and Bob blew it up again. Well Bo had seen enough and told Bob to get out and go back up to the first and second team before he hurt someone- that was the last time I ever saw Bob Patek on Demo, they were not having any more of that.
Perhaps Bob's greatest football moments came in the 1976 season and the 1977 Rose Bowl – Bob's sophomore year. We had been ranked number 1 and lost to Purdue but then we had thoroughly beaten Ohio State in Ohio and were off to the Rose Bowl with our luster regained. Jerry Zuver was an excellent wolf D back and had played well against in the Buckeyes including a fake PAT that gave us the 22 to 0 lead. We came into town in Southern California favored. As a freshman walk on linebacker I was not on the travel squad but the team arranged for us to come to California to see the game. We all dreamed of playing in the Rose Bowl and getting into that game and contributing in a big way for our team. The closest I would get this day was in the stands. I had never seen a Michigan game from the stands before and had an end zone student seat.
Half way through the first quarter Jerry Zuver got hurt and had to leave the game. As they helped Zuver come out of the game – out onto the field comes Bob walking, very confidently – just like the very first day I met him at N Farmington- like he was all that. It was almost unfathomable, I could not believe it Bob was living my dream. I was simultaneously happy for him and apprehensive because I knew he did not expect to debut his career in the Rose Bowl in front of 50 million people with the national championship potentially on the line and he had big shoes to fill as Zuver was a leader by example. I am proud to say that Bob Patek did not disappoint. Bob came off the bench and he did deliver, cool, tough, class from whistle to whistle. Bob took some big shots and he gave some. Bob played like a Michigan Man- fearless, unwavering and under control delivering play after play another helping of 100% Blue. When people say “GO BLUE” they are talking about guys like Bob Patek – few and far between – a real champion ALWAYS ready for the call.
I was there when Bob got hurt against Duke. At the time he came out I thought nothing of it thinking that he would go back in but he never did. Later I found out he had a spinal injury. It was a tremendous loss for the team on the field but Bob ever the competitor and wanting to contribute to the team became a Graduate Assistant coach helping with the defense. When I became a senior Bob was still there helping out and I was now a second stringer and off Demo so we interacted a bit more but not much.
I never knew it at the time but Bob was premed as was I and when I was in my fifth year I literally ran into Bob. As it turned out we were both coincidently living in North Campus. There was this incredibly steep hill about a three quarter of a mile long that would be at times be at about 60 degree angle. No one who worked out could resist it so I ran it daily. One day while on my way down I see Bob coming up. I thought he had graduated. We ran into each other later and he tells me that he has been applying to get into med school but had not yet been accepted. Later that same year a spot opened up and he was accepted at U of M. I had also been accepted but not at Michigan otherwise we would have been classmates.
I finished med school and went out to California to do my internship in general surgery at LA COUNTY MLK a brutal post graduate medical training program in the heart of the LA ghetto. I was trying to get into the prestigious specialty of Orthopedics there and I felt I was meant for it and I wanted to be a spine surgeon I was walking on all over again. A very popular specialty I had to wait till after I did 2 years of general surgery and one year of research to gain admittance into the exclusive club of Orthopedics at MLK a 5 year program. I had done my research at the perennial medical group the Kerlan Jobe Orthopedic Clinic (KJOC) where all of the athletes from all over the world from all sports came to get treated. After I finished my residency the plan was to do a fellowship at (KJOC). This was a coveted fellowship program that only the best orthopedics graduates would gain entrance to. Only the best of the best would gain admittance to this fellowship they were number 1 and everybody knew it.
When Patek walked into that fellowship all the way out here in California while I was still slugging it out in my residency I could not believe it and I did not know whether to laugh or cry. This guy had stolen my playbook for life and was using it every day better than me. I could not face him I really could not and everybody asked me about him all the time because they knew we were team mates –“is he all that?” I just said yeah he is all that you think he is trust me I know I been watching it for about 15 years he is the real deal cool, tough, class.
The last time I saw Bob was at the reunion for Bo in 2003 we shared a brief a conversation I told him that I done a spine fellowship and asked him about his neck. He had resisted having surgery but he had never had his unilateral facet dislocation reduced to my knowledge but did not feel bad and we left his health at that. I was just proud to tell him that I had finally arrived at the place we both had set out to get to decades earlier. I could face him now. Bob congratulated me on my success the only way a guy like him could a smile, a handshake and a brief look of “you did what you were supposed to do you're a Michigan Man” and from him that was more than enough.
I am happy that Bob knew Jesus Christ because I would really want see him again and tell him what an influence he was on me by example.
July 29, 2014
I just found out that Dr Patek had passed. Took my breath away. My daughter, Julie, babysat for the kids when she was in high school. He was the best doc...so caring. My condolences to Mrs. Patek and the kids even though it's nearly two years ago. He has a special place in the hearts of my family. My family will never forget him.
May 15, 2014
I hadn't been in contact with Bob in many years, having known him as a Northwestern resident and seeing him occasionally over the years. Even so, his passing saddens me greatly. He was a wonderful guy, straight shooter and excellent surgeon. God Bless you, Bob
Pat Sweeney MD
February 27, 2014
I just found out today about Bob's passing. He performed 4 ACL surgeries on two of my daughters knees that allowed them to have great college lacrosse careers at Northwestern and Boston College...... He was a terrific surgeon and an even better guy who will be greatly missed...We pray for his family.
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