This site includes the postings from the Irish Aires email list. This includes a listing of Irish/Celtic events in the Houston area and other information that the Irish Aires radio program posts.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Eulogy for Patrick E Patton

Eulogy for Patrick E. Patton

Brian Waters July 3, 2003

We are gathered here today to honor Patrick E. Patton, a man that we call father, brother, uncle, and friend. A man of extraordinary talents, intellectual brilliance, remarkable creativity, and deep and abiding love for his family, his friends, his culture, and his faith.

Pat passed away last Saturday after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease. Never before has that terrible disease destroyed a greater mind or left such an empty space in the lives of so many. But we were all infinitely fortunate to have known Pat during his lifetime and we celebrate his life here today.

Quite simply, Patrick Patton was a remarkable man. In many ways, he embodied all of the best things about the Irish - great humor, generosity of spirit, a deep respect for knowledge, culture and ideas, and a passion for social justice. But perhaps most of all, Pat will be remembered for his uniquely warm and charming personality, and the seemingly effortless way in which he related to, and touched, those around him. These were his gifts. Pat had them in such abundance, and shared them with such generosity, that he enriched all of our lives in profound and meaningful ways.

Many of us here today remember Pat from his involvement in the Irish community in Houston. In many ways, Pat was the Irish community in Houston. Indeed, Pat held just about every office in every Irish organization as has ever existed in this city. I used to tease Pat that he was running out of new offices to be elected to and told him that it was imperative to set up a committee to identify new Irish organizations with new offices that he had not yet held. Indeed, after reflecting on the astonishing variety of Irish groups that then existed throughout the city, Ed Gorman once remarked to me that he was setting up his own group - the AIO. When I unwittingly asked Ed what the acronym stood for, he dryly remarked: "Another Irish Organization." Of course, Pat loved it and I can still hear him laughing.

In no particular order, Pat held the following offices (some more than once) Ancient Order of Hibernians - National Director, State Board President, Harris County Board President, Dick Dowling Division President, Texas Irish Association - co-founder and officer, Texas Irish News - founder and editor, and Grand Marshall of the 1994 St. Patrick's Day Parade. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Indeed, Pat seemed to be everywhere at once in the Irish community. Whether it be a feis, a ceili, a concert, a meeting, a convention, a dinner dance, a charity event, a political event, a parade event, or just a few close friends sharing pints at the pub - Pat always seemed to be there.

Pat also had that uniquely Irish trait of being able to mix religion and politics with just about anything. On one lobbying trip to Austin, several of us were traveling in Pat's car, listening to a football game between Notre Dame and Boston College on the radio. As the game came down to the wire, Boston College scored a crucial fourth quarter touchdown to pull out the victory. Among the crowd of crestfallen Notre Dame Fans, Pat's singular voice rang out, "Well, if they had to lose, at least they had the common decency to lose to Jesuits."

Of course, Pat was the voice of Houston's own weekly Irish radio show, Irish Aires, for many years. Started in 1983, the show just celebrated its 20th anniversary on the air. Pat was also the leader in the effort to get the MacBride Principles for Fair Employment in Northern Ireland passed in the State of Texas. I saw firsthand how Pat worked tirelessly with lobbyists and legislators to assure the bill's passage. Pat gave his energy, his creativity, his passion, and many times his own personal fortune to push the bill through the legislature. He worked tirelessly both behind the scenes and in public as the primary voice of the Irish community on this issue. Pat even raised funds to send the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, to Northern Ireland on a factfinding mission. Pat received a special commendation from the Irish government for all of the work that he had done for Irish issues in Texas and throughout the United States. Pat probably never knew many of the people who benefited from his work but that was never important to him.

Pat's passion for social justice did not begin and end with Ireland and Irish issues. As a social worker with the Lighthouse for the Blind, Pat put his considerable talents to work right here at home to help those less fortunate than himself. He was a constant champion for charitable causes in the Ancient Order of Hibernians and he used his position in the Irish community to build bridges with other ethnic groups throughout the city on issues of common concern, such as immigration reform and civil rights.

But for all of his public life, Pat was also a man who lived a full private life in the quiet surroundings of family and friends. He was a devoted father and deeply loved his children, Kevin and Katie. My wife Anne and I were fortunate enough to become adopted members of the Patton clan, and we spent many good times at the house over dinners, stories, and songs. Over the years, we saw how Pat took great pride in the talents and accomplishments of Kevin and Katie. Although he might not have said it as often as he wished, he was extremely proud of both of you and loved you with all his heart.

Pat was also extremely close with his brother Kyle and his family. He often talked with pride of Kyle's accomplishments. It was Kyle, and his family, who took care of Pat in his time of greatest need.

Indeed, so many of you here today, helped to take care of Pat in his hour of need. From his family to his friends, especially Jay and Bertha Dooling, the Irish community came together to give back to Pat some measure of what he has given to all of us.

The great American philosopher and writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, defined success as follows:

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success."

By this or any other definition, Pat's life was an unqualified success. He has had a profound and lasting impact on our lives and we are all the better for it. So today we say, thank you Pat. We love you and miss you. As you go with God, you will always live in your good works and in our memories and our hearts.

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