(Below are my remembrances that I gave at the memorial on August 3, 2013)
I am David Andrew Patterson, with my given name coming my father and grandfather and my middle name coming from my great-grand father.
There is not time to talk in detail about all my father's positive characteristics, such as:
- The Red Cross recognized my Dad for donating literally gallons of his blood;
- He was elected an elder of his church at the tender age of 26;
- He would fix the door bell of a home-repair challenged friend;
- He rose to vice president in a company where only family members succeeded;
- He renegotiated service contracts as president of his condo to fund major enhancements that benefited all 300 units;
- He was a romantic who still called his wife of 66 years his Bride.
I am going to talk about him as a father. When you grow up as a boy, your Dad is often your hero. Some men learn later that their fathers had feet of clay. Not my Dad; he had feet of granite. His personality was polished via generations of upstanding Patterson men, who trace their roots all the way back to Scotland.
My father was a very hard worker. He had a full-time job to support his wife and infant son while going to community college full-time. When my parents moved here in 1951 for a better climate, a better job, and affordable housing, and we got a house near the beach. That meant he drove almost 50 miles six days a week, as he worked a half-day on Saturday. Sunday morning was church, which left Saturday and Sunday afternoons for home improvement projects. He also took classes at USC one or two nights a week. It took him 20 years to graduate, and his dedication made quite an impression on us. All four of his children all nine of his grandchildren graduated from college, with half of us earning advanced degrees. He retired at 67 after working 40+ years, but at 78, he started again halftime as the condo manager. This was the year after he had a heart attack and a quintuple bypass operation. He said the good news was that the commute was easy.
Dad was a natural athlete. He played basketball in high school, and became a pole-vaulter only because he saw a boy doing it and was sure he could vault higher. Which he did on his second try. As an adult, he loved tennis, skiing, backpacking, and fishing. He built a paddle tennis court in has backyard, and none of us could ever beat him no matter how much we practiced or how old he got. He later became hooked on golf, I think primarily because it wasn't easy for him.
My father almost never lost his temper, unlike some of his relatives. That didn't mean he was a pushover, however.
We spent holidays with his parents and family in San Diego. When I was 10, at a holiday dinner one elderly relative said the N-word. My father stopped the conversation, said he was not raising his children that way, and that no one should ever say that word again. And no one ever did.
When I was 13, we went to Tijuana. I invested all my savings into illegal fireworks. My Dad warned that when crossing the border, he wouldn't volunteer that I had them, but that he wouldn't lie. As soon as border agent saw me, he asked my father if we were holding. My Dad said yes, and I lost my stash. I was angry, and on the way home I shared with everyone in the car that I was sure that I had the stupidest father in all of Southern California. In retrospect, I learned a lesson about honesty that stuck with me as a man more than all the lectures I heard as a boy.
When I was 17, one church service at St. Andrews was on Martin Luther King. Our conservative minister claimed King was a just a communist rabble-rouser. At the reception line afterwards––all the while shaking the minister's hand––my Dad said he strongly disagreed, and he would have to go home to talk to his children to repair any damage from this misguided sermon.
Let's fast-forward 45 years to when Dad was manager of the condo. Jaime Guzman, who had worked as staff at the condo for 28 years, was diagnosed with cancer. After he could no longer work, my father instead kept him on the payroll for the last six months of his life, despite two of the five condo board members insisting that Jaime be fired.
As I reflect about Dad's life, I think we need to collect the positive attributes of all 30 of his relatives to match those of this one good man. As my sister said this morning, he set a new standard that will be challenging for the rest of the Patterson clan.
What I learned from him was to work hard, to sacrifice for your family, that age shouldn't stop me from athletic endeavors, the difference between right and wrong, and to do the right thing no matter how difficult the circumstances. As I think about these five lessons, they form my core values.
Dad, you amplified the legacy of your Scottish ancestors.
And, Dad, you're still my hero.