Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Contagious zest for life

I had forgotten how magnetic Pat is, how people are drawn to her, how, when she asks, you want to say yes to, well, anything.

We knew her in our early days of marriage, when Tad and I lived in a beautiful, old apartment atop an antique shop, sandwiched between the Loveland City building and The Whistle Stop Cafe, where you could get a draft for under a buck. We chose Loveland because one of us worked in Lebanon and the other, in Montgomery. It was a good halfway point. We'd almost given up looking for something interesting when, as we drove through the sleepy downtown, I was drawn to the top of the antique shop. There was no for-rent sign, but it looked vacant and inviting.

I called and the owners were delighted to rent it with one caution: it hadn't been lived in in 30 years. That translated into lots of scrubbing walls and cabinets, but, in doing so, being rewarded by little discoveries such as original, ruffled shelf paper in mint condition, the large closet with dressing table and mirror, marble bathroom with separate toilet and swinging kitchen door. We made our home here for five years, though we kept our Loveland office longer. That office happened to be two doors down from our bank, where the Chamber of Commerce office was located. Pat was the director, so it was inevitable that we would meet. As a creative agency, we became involved in the Loveland Valentine program and Tad served on the chamber's board of directors. The Christmas parties, under Pat's joyful hand, were some of the best, most intimate corporate events I've ever attended and that includes lots of press parties as a journalist.

Don't miss Pat's leopard shoes and the conga line behind her
So it was no surprise to us that her 80th birthday would be nothing short of fabulous. Just pulling up to the magnificent club house was a treat. Tad dusted off his tux and my girls selected my dress, did my makeup, nails and supplied jewelry. Gussied up, we strode in to glittering women and penguin-attired men. But none shone brighter than the diminutive Pat in her sassy beige jacket and flowing dress. She must have individually greeted every single person, making each feel as if they were the only guest. She has that way.

After rounds of filling appetizers and a few glasses of wine, Pat had us all at the dance floor. First as many wonderful presentations were made, then to dance to the great Dixieland-swing band. No one was left unattended.

It's been over 20 years since we lived in Loveland and, as we have acclimated to Milford, we seemed to have left behind that chapter behind. Those ties, however, were rekindled a year-and-a-half ago when Tad held a photo show in Loveland's Maritain Gallery thanks to our friend Joe. We were honored to live across the street from his father's design studio and gallery in Loveland and connect through graphic-design projects. Pat attended Tad's opening and the years melted. Most recently, Tad designed the logo for 42 Street, a Loveland Stage Company production Pat was directing. I learned at the party that she launched the Loveland Stage Company herself. Upon moving to Loveland, asking about local theater and learning there was none, she famously responded, "There is now."

Our teens still remember Pat's visit in 2002, when she served as the Loveland Valentine Lady, a big honor. She drove over for a Milford visit, which thrilled the girls more than Santa. She went out of her way to do special things like that. Still does, I am certain.

My favorite gazpacho recipe comes from her late husband, Fred. He was a doll and they adored each other. I felt like a voyeur, but in a good way, watching the slides depicting her life at the party, seeing Pat as a girl, then her and Fred as a young couple, through the child-rearing years and more recently. The one that lingers in my mind is Pat poking through the rubble after the theater the stage company rehabbed burned, but would soon and assuredly, be rebuilt. The photos gave me perspective on her life, energy and enthusiasm. And reminded me how lucky I am to have experienced such a rich time in Loveland and still have strong ties.

We reconnected with a few other longtime friends and acquaintances with refreshing big rounds of hugs and quick catching up. I noticed Wayne, who had been the city manager when we moved in next door. We even did some design work for the city and got to know him fairly well. I sought him out, thinking I'd have to explain who I was, when his arms opened wide and he gave me a giant, fatherly hug. "Oh, no, don't you remember we first met when I was consulting for the City of Montgomery and you were a reporter?" I had forgotten. He asked what I was doing and when I explained my Artsy Fartsy Saturdays program, he said "I am so proud of you."

As we were leaving Pat on the dance floor, I got a great idea: maybe she'd come to Artsy Fartsy and teach the kids drama. They would eat her up just as everyone else does.

Happy birthday, Pat, you're as vivacious and inspiring as ever. I am grateful for your friendship.

• When have I been inspired by someone?
• Whom do I know that is so inclusive and makes everyone want to participate?
• What other leadership qualities do I admire?
• How has a place and its people strongly affected me?
• How do I see Spirit's hand in those relationships and experiences?

Pat is

You can't
say no to her,
nor do you
want to

because whatever
the task or challenge,
she will make certain
it is enjoyable

as her zest
for life is

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