I first met Pat in May of 2019. I visited Pat over 9 times this summer, my last visit just two days before he passed away on August 23, 2019.
When we were first introduced, we shook hands, and I remarked how his full name sounded so distinguished; he chuckled, looked at me and said “just call me Pat.” From that day forward, he was “just Pat.”
Most all of our visits involved discussions about his boyhood on the farm, enlisting in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and starting his own family and farming after the war.
Pat liked to talk about growing up on the farm with his brothers and sisters, and the times they would go swimming in the Skunk River on hot days. Pat told this story,
“Sometimes when the water was high, you had to be really careful because you might step in a hole and go under or get your foot caught in a submerged tree branch. We all looked out for each other, but one day when my brothers and I were ‘dunking’ each other, I held my brother down under the water so he couldn’t come back up; boy was he squirming and kicking around. But you know, I wouldn’t let anybody drown, I was just fooling around with him, so I pulled him back up, and boy was he mad. He told my Dad what I had done.”
When I visited Pat, I always wore my Veterans of Foreign Wars uniform shirt and service cap. It was on my third visit to Pat, I had just come through the door into a long hallway leading to a small lounging area with bookshelves and a sofa. There, sitting by himself, was Pat. He looked up, saw me, held up his arm and said in a loud voice, “You coming to see me?” I said, “Yes, I am,” as he waved me on back and said, “Have a seat.” We shook hands and I asked him how he was feeling today. He replied while laughing, “Feeling fine and still kicking.” We started visiting and it wasn’t too long before another Air Force veteran joined us. On a previous visit, I had brought two large hardcover books with colored photos of planes of WWII and the Korean War for Pat and me to look at. Don B., a Korean War pilot himself, saw the books and soon was looking over our backs and joining in our conversation. It was a very nice visit
On another visit, we were talking about Pat’s farms in the area, and discussed the livestock, crops, and machinery on his farms. I told Pat that I also grew up on a farm raising chickens, hogs, beef and dairy cattle, oats, beans, corn, alfalfa and clover hay. I asked Pat what was the thing he liked best on the farm; he was quick to answer with a big smile, “Making and baling hay.” We both agreed that there wasn’t anything to compare to the sweet scent of a freshly cut field of Alfalfa or Red Clover.
During one of our visits, I told Pat that I was an army veteran and had gotten drafted during the Vietnam War. Pat responded that when the Korean War broke out, he knew it was his patriotic duty to help his country, but he did not want to shoot or kill anybody, so he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Pat couldn’t remember where he was stationed at the time, but there was an incidence where he caught two men stealing supplies. When they wouldn’t stop, he had to make up his mind on what to do. He explained, “I really did not want to hurt anybody, but I had to do something, so I shot them in the legs.” Other than this one incident, Pat said he really enjoyed his time in the Air Force and would do it all over again.
There was one visit where I got to sit with Pat during an hour-long music session. The young guitarist conducting the session would ask for requests from those in the room. Most of the songs were from the 40’s through the 70’s. Except for one song, where Pat dozed off, he sang and kept time with every song. He even got to beat time on a drum during one song.
During our visits, (except for my last two visits due to his decline in health) we always shook hands when I first came and again on leaving, at which Pat would smile and say, ”See ya next time,” and wave goodbye.
On my last visit to Pat, I met his daughter, Melanie, who had stayed overnight with Pat due to his recent health decline and worsening dementia. She said her mother and siblings were taking turns staying overnight with him. We talked about my visits, and she mentioned how Pat seemed to perk-up when they talked about the Air Force with him. Unfortunately, Pat passed away two days after this visit.
When I attended Pat’s funeral, I wore my VFW uniform, and upon arriving, I expressed my condolences to Melanie as she introduced me to her sisters. They thanked me and expressed their appreciation for me coming that day. I then walked to Pat’s casket. Pat was in a new black suit and looked very sharp with the tri-folded American flag just to the left of his head. While there, Melanie came over and said they had a new U.S. Air Force logo pin and were wondering if it would be okay for it to be buried with Pat. I said I was sure Pat would be very proud to have that pin. Melanie returned with several members of her family, handed me the pin and asked me to put it on Pat. I put the pin on Pat’s left lapel, straightened it, stepped back, came to attention, and gave Air Force Veteran G. Patrick R. a final salute.