Our mom peacefully slipped from this life into her next in the quiet early morning of Veteran’s Day. She was alive for 30,078 sunrises, 30,077 sunsets and for almost 85 times the earth orbited the sun. She chose to be born to older parents (mother was 42 and father was 55) in Pender, NE, and grew up the youngest of three sisters-her oldest sister left for college the year she turned one. Her father, Thomas, was a Presbyterian Minister, her mother, Florence, played the church piano and made large hand-sewn quilts. Our Mom was restless being raised by tired, poor parents so she ran around with the neighboring farm kids.
The kind of test-taker we envy, she graduated with honors from Iowa State University in 1956 with a BS in Home Economics. During the summers of 1953-1956, she worked in Yellowstone National Park for Yellowstone Park Company as a cabin clerk. She met John Barry while working in Yellowstone and they married in December 1956, immediately moved to the army base in Meade Maryland. Bored as an army housewife, she taught school without a teaching degree and found her first career love. In 1958 her husband was transferred to Virginia where their first daughter, Cynthia Shawn (Wilkinson) was born in 1959. Six months later they took a vacation back to Yellowstone only to leave right before the big 1959 earthquake struck. In 1960, pregnant with their second child, they moved to Dugway Proving Grounds Army base, where Sandra Sue (Mills) was born on a very hot summer day-“six weeks late”. She survived living on the army base after discovering 5 o’clock cocktail hour and meeting a new lifelong friend, Pat Bovington. In 1965 the family left Dugway and the Army life and moved to Salt Lake City, where she began teaching elementary school. While living in SLC the family restored a small cabin on Denny Creek a few miles outside of W. Yellowstone, and their love of Montana grew.
It was during her teaching career that she realized her daughter Sandee had an undiagnosed learning disability and she tirelessly carted Sandee from tutor to specialist to doctors to the University of Utah back to tutors in a mother-bear effort to; “Get this kid to read”. Her persistence to not let her creative kid “fall through the cracks” led to Sandee’s diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD and to the help Sandee needed.
With little effort, she received her real estate license in 1970 and found her lasting career; she worked in commercial Real Estate until the family moved to Davis, California, in 1976. Not long after their arrival in California she became one of the few women commercial real estate brokers in the greater Sacramento area. With her kids out of the house and just short of a 26-year marriage, she left to live independently. She loved sitting on her porch looking out in the farming field appreciating the golden sunset and the silhouette of “her” giant oak tree. When her first grandchild, Meredith, was born she insisted on being called “Grandma Pat”. Grandma alone sounded, “Way too old.” Three brothers arrived after Meredith, and Mom loved every minute they visited.
She valued and worked in many different real estate offices throughout the years in Davis and Sacramento expanding into property management. She tirelessly fought and navigated her way around a male dominated working environment by being feisty and brutally honest. With the same fighting spirit, she won her battle with stage 4 breast cancer at 63 and never looked back.
She worked into her 70’s, until her eidetic map memory failed her, and she became confused while driving in a city she previously navigated so easily. She lived in assisted living for over seven years in Mercy McMahon Terrace on J Street. She loved living there-for once in her life she was able to relax and enjoy life’s small gifts. She loved; not worrying about money, not worrying about closing the next deal, not worrying about her mounds of paperwork.
A few of her melodramatic sayings were: “Are you believing this?”; “Are you going to comb your hair?”; “How serendipitous”; “Hey, get that car moving, are you building a garage around it you stupid idiot driver?”; “I need one more swig of my coffee”; “I’m so clever I can’t stand it”; “Don’t give me any guff”; “I’m working on paperwork all weekend”; and “You can do anything you set your mind to.”
She moved to Bozeman, Montana into Spring Meadows, two months ago to be closer to her daughter, Sandee and four of her grandchildren. For ten years dementia slowly robbed her of her good and bad memories and in grace she forgot to worry. She was happy.
We remember her best for her monetary generosity, for her love of entertaining-especially teaching her grandkids how to cook healthy and interesting meals. She had a large vocabulary; to which we rolled our eyes but envied her unique expression. She had no qualms of correcting anyone’s grammar, because, “Why wouldn’t someone want to speak correctly?” You knew where you stood, either feeling a little putdown by her caustic delivery, or loved from her generous spirit.
She loved dogs, vistas, the southwest, beautiful art, a reliable car, honest people, having her grandkids over and entertaining, the smell of a wet Montana morning and a really good bottle of wine. She disliked bad grammar, dishonest people, growing up poor, exercise, and cats.
She is survived by her children Cynthia Wilkinson (Pete) of CA and Sandra Mills (John) of Bozeman; her grandchildren: Meredith Johnson (Wilkinson), Zachary Wilkinson, and Taylor Wilkinson, Hayden Mills, great-granddaughter Mabel Johnson, all of Bozeman. Thaddeus Wilkinson of CA., She is preceded in death by her “right” sisters; Jean Patterson, and Terry Arends of CA and her granddaughter Storey Mills of Bozeman.
No services are planned, the family will honor and sprinkle her ashes in Yellowstone, and under Storey’s tree. Her brain is being donated to science for research into dementia and Neuronal Intranuclear Hyaline Inclusion Disease (NIID), the disease her granddaughter Storey died of at 7 years.
In Pat’s memory donations can be made to Mercy McMahan Terrace 3865 J. Street, Sacramento, CA. 95816, where she was happily cared for and loved.