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Patricia Kelsey Watkins - journalist, wife, mother and proud native Hoosier - died at age 83 on January 25, 2014, in Toledo. Her newspaper career began at age 10 with a family newsletter in her hometown of Roanoke, IN, blossomed (along with a romance that led to a 54-year marriage) at the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and, after a second career as wife and mother, culminated in the editorship of the Perrysburg Messenger Journal.
Pat was born July 16, 1930, in Roanoke to Hilda and Floyd Kelsey. Not content with writing solely for her parents and five siblings, she wrote stories for her classmates and a school news column for the local paper. She hit the big time - at least by the standards of her youthful peers - when she landed a job as a drugstore soda jerk at a wage of 20 cents an hour, all the ice cream she could eat, and a prime spot at the nucleus of the town's teenage social scene. She had a brush with future celebrity when she met James Dean, then a high school student from Fairmount, IN, during a field trip to Indianapolis.
Though her drugstore job earned her status as an "apprentice pharmacist" in Indiana, the writing bug was strong and Pat decided to study journalism at Indiana University and work at the campus paper, the Indiana Daily Student. After graduation in 1952, she was hired by the Journal-Gazette to write for the "women's page." One of her assignments was covering the work of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, of Kinsey Report fame. It wasn't long before a young Korean War veteran and newly hired reporter named H. Griffin Watkins took the desk across the aisle. She and Griff were married in 1956.
Pat moved to Toledo when Griff took a job with Flournoy & Gibbs, a leading public relations firm in the area. She became a full-time wife and mother, pouring all her love and care into raising their three children. As a volunteer at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns parish, she made friendships that lasted a lifetime. Pat also volunteered at her children's high schools: St. John's Jesuit, where she edited the parent newsletter (and was proud to have titled it "Vox Mom") and now-defunct McAuley, where she put her organizing skills to work on the annual carnival. She also volunteered at Mobile Meals, MCO hospital and Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
Pat's generosity with her time and talents did not stop with community service. Friends and relatives were the happy beneficiaries of her needlework skills; the personalized Christmas stockings she knitted are still hung on many a chimney with care. Every holiday season, friends anticipated the arrival of Pat's homemade fudge, and her kids gladly gobbled up the rare batch that didn't quite set right.
After her children grew up, Pat returned to the workforce and joined the weekly Perrysburg Messenger Journal. She covered everything from Harrison Rally Day to local politics, and her reporting got her in enough hot water that she retained a home security service - a badge of honor in the news business. In 1995, she won a Crystal Award of Merit from the Association for Women in Communications. She retired as editor of the paper.
Though the extent of her Irish heritage was dubious, the Emerald Isle was Pat's spiritual homeland. She visited Ireland numerous times, most recently and memorably in 2011 with her children, their spouses and her cherished grandson. Closer to home, her passions included reading, golf, collecting interesting obituaries, and a succession of beloved dogs.
Pat is survived by sons, Daniel K. Watkins (Sarah) and John G. Watkins (Mona) of Toledo; daughter, Nancy G. Watkins (Brian Lavelle) of Chicago; grandson, Griffin P. Wood of Chicago; sisters, Phyllis Witherow of Roanoke and Barbara (Jim) Graham of Troy, Ohio, and brothers, Robert (Nancy) Kelsey and Duane Kelsey, all of Roanoke. She also leaves many loving nieces and nephews.
Preceding her in death were her husband, Griff, and a brother, Floyd Kelsey.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, January 31, at the Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 S. Reynolds Road, Toledo. Family and friends are invited to say a few words at 7 p.m. if they wish. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 1, at the Historic Church of St. Patrick, 130 Avondale Ave., Toledo, with visitation at the church for an hour before the Mass. Preferred memorials are the Historic Church of St. Patrick and Hospice of Northwest Ohio, 30000 E. River Road, Perrysburg, OH 43551. Please view and sign our online "guest registry" at
Published in Toledo Blade on Jan. 30, 2014