William Patrick ‘Pat’ Patterson died this past Thursday April 6 in Summerside, PEI after a battle with cancer. I never knew Pat was ailing; he’d been posting on Facebook as lately as last month. Another old friend I wish I had been able to see one last time before he left us. I’m sorry for Cathy and for all of those Pat touched. If you gathered us together, we’d fill the Big Owe and send the overflow crowd over to the Bell Centre. Everyone would have a Pat story to tell.
I met Pat when he was with the MUC police youth protection squad and I was a Gazette police reporter. He was one of those referee-minded anglo cops who made the force a lot better than it is today. That tough facade would drop in an instant to show a deeply compassionate, understanding man with a twinkle in his eye and a joke to water down the cop cynicism. I’m not saying Pat ever laid a hand on anyone in anger, but Station 9 had a very dangerous marble staircase, especially so for the pimps and predators who took advantage of helpless runaways.
Pat and I loved to gossip over beers about the sleazy side of politics. We’d tell each other stories about what our elected officials and celebrities were up to and with whom. When it came to divulging sources, both our mouths were zipped. Secrets don’t stay secret the instant they leave your mouth.
When he retired from the force Pat began his second career as Sun Youth’s reward negotiator. A young person would go missing or turn up dead and one of Sun Youth’s benefactors would offer a reward for information leading to their safe return or information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator. Pat would handle the negotiations. He had the contacts and he was streetwise. It was neither easy nor pleasant.
At some point, Pat decided he’d had enough of Montreal’s dirty, dangerous streets and got involved with Canada’s paralympic ski team. He was tireless in his efforts to raise money and awareness of just how good and dedicated these challenged athletes are. I was a radio bigmouth with slots to fill, so we saw a lot of one another.
I was blown away the day I ran into him in Hudson and learned that Pat, now divorced, had reconnected with his first love Cathy Perowne and that they had bought a house on Oakland. Louise and I took them sailing up to Carillon Island and back. Next I knew, Pat and Cathy had bought a Tanzer 22 to go out sailing in the evening. Somehow, Pat got badly bitten by the racing bug. One windy day, Ron Metcalfe and I were crewing for him. He got a terrific start but he kept putting us in irons because of the 22’s tendency to disobey its helmsman and head up when it heeled. “Keep the goddamn boat under the mast,” we kept yelling. Pat got good enough at racing to want to learn the rules. Once he went down that road, there was no stopping the referee in him. He took IYRU race committee courses and was welcomed aboard race committee boats all over North America.
One year, I left the trip downriver too late. I asked Pat if he’d help me move the boat from Kingston to Iroquois. The weather was putrid, with half a gale dead on our nose and a cold, driving rain. We set out to find a gas station where we could buy diesel. Pat flagged down a Kingston cruiser, showed the cop his police badge and explained the problem. The cop threw our jerrycan in the trunk and me in the back seat, with the wire-mesh grille and no door handles. Pat got into the front seat of that cruiser like he’d never left and the two of them talked cop all the way out to a cheap-diesel place on the 401 and back to the boat.
Pat made trip downriver bearable and showed himself to be the better sailor and navigator.
Pat and Cathy sold the place on Oakland because the stairs were giving his beat-up cop/skier knees sweet merry hell and moved to a bungalow on Ridge. We’d visit them as they were sprucing up the place, never suspecting they’d be leaving. Next we knew, they had sold the bungalow and moved to Summerside, where they could be closer to Cathy’s grandkids and Pat could get himself a C&C 27 to sail in the ocean. Occasionally, Pat would roll through Hudson in his pickup but I was usually on deadline or chasing news to take time out for a beer. If only.
Last we saw Pat was a couple of years ago. We were sailing off Kingston in the leadup to CORK, one of eastern North America’s most important sailing regattas. A rigid inflatable roared up alongside. It was Pat and his driver, checking the racecourses. We exchanged news and made the usual promises to stay in touch before Pat returned to the job at hand.
I never told you this, Pat, but you’re the older brother I never had, the wise, knowing friend, the sharer of secrets, the commiserator and comforter. Keep an eye on us mortals, my friend. God knows we need someone to enforce the rules and keep the peace.