Mystic - James Henry Patterson passed away in New London on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 3, 2013.
He entered the world as a result of the union of James H. Patterson and Zula Mae Murphy on March 29, 1945, in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pa. When James was one and a half years old, the family moved to NE Washington, District of Columbia, in the section of Capitol Hill. James attended local public schools in the district and in 1960 entered the prestigious Eastern High School, "The Pride of Capitol Hill", where he excelled in his studies and participated in Jr. ROTC. It was here at Eastern High School that James absorbed the positive aspects of Jr. ROTC and rose to the rank of regimental sgt. major.
In 1965, duty called. James eagerly enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps
, a lifelong dream. At this time the U.S. was involved in the Vietnam Conflict. James was stationed in the South East Asia region embedded with the First Battalion, Third Marines. Whilst in battle, Patterson received a field promotion to sergeant. After his tour ended in 1967, he returned stateside serving his final two years at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base New London at Groton, as an MP and on the Admiral's Honor Guard. In 1969, James was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps as an E-5 sgt.
It was about this time when James' love affair with Mystic began. It was here that James became a schooner sailor. If you were to only walk with James down Main Street in Mystic on a sunny afternoon, you would then begin to understand how well loved he was by all in this intimate maritime village. Pat, as he was sometimes called, can best be described in the words of Fredrick Douglass, a ship's caulker, who escaped slavery in the South by posing as a "Blackjack" sailor fleeing north;
"â€¦.he knew a ship from stem to stern, from keelson to crosstrees, and could talk sailor like an â€˜old salt,â€¦'"
After the Marine Corps, James served as a house parent at the Mystic Oral School for the Deaf beginning in 1970. Beloved by students and staff alike, he remained there until its closing in the early 1980s. While at the school, James coached basketball and served as a scout master.
As a gifted chef, he worked at various local Mystic restaurants, including the Daniel Packer Inne, The Fisherman, the Ancient Mariner, and Steamboat CafÃ©. In the mid-1980s, his appetite for adventure took him to the high seas where he served as crew and cook on various tall ships sailing out of Mystic, including the Harvey Gamage, Voyager, Mystic Whaler, Tole Mour, Charlotte Ann, and Rachel and Ebenezer. James' skill as chef aboard these vessels encompassed his vast knowledge of sailing on waters near and far, as well as the ability to provision a ship in both domestic and foreign ports. His experience in planning meals for extended sea voyages, and his management experience included the supervision and establishment of close working relationships with both adults and adolescents, for extended periods of time at sea and on shore. In addition to chef, James earned the unofficial title of "morale officer" aboard the ships he served because of his caring and intuitive nature.
In the mid-1990s, James served as master cook at the Foxwoods Casino in their world class buffet. He supervised a crew who prepared meals for close to 10,000 people on a daily basis.
In 1998, at Mystic Seaport Museum, Amistad America, Inc., laid the keel, made out of purple heart
wood from the Republic of Suriname, and began construction of the Freedom Schooner Amistad. James was commissioned to design the galley and served as the first executive chef aboard the vessel. Amistad was launched in March of 2000, and sailed for the first time in OPSAIL 2000 in July. James sailed with the ship as she traveled throughout Connecticut, the Eastern coast of the United States, the Great Lakes and Canada.
After the Amistad experience, James retired to Mystic, where he and his loving wife, Kathleen, most recently purchased a home a "stone's throw" from the Mystic River that James loved so well.
James is survived by his wife, Kathleen Crockford of Mystic; his sister, Gussie Wells and her husband, Robert, of Oxon Hill, Md.; and his brother, Norman Garrett of Washington, D.C.
James was pre-deceased by his parents; sister, Ida Ray; and brothers, Kevin Garrett and Tyrone Garrett.
A Memorial Celebration of James' life will be held in Mystic in August, 2013, time and location to be announced.
The Dinoto Funeral Home, 17 Pearl St., Mystic, is assisting the family.