Charles “Pat” Patterson, 77, of Chestertown, MD, passed away at home on September 18, 2020, after a long struggle with esophageal cancer. The younger son of Charles and Ruth Patterson, Pat grew up in Harlingen, Texas, near the Mexican border. As a boy, he had a pet armadillo, tended tropical fish and small livestock at a feed store, worked in a photography shop and, proudly getting his drivers license at age 14, drove to the Gulf of Mexico on solitary overnight fishing trips.
His high school valedictorian, Pat left Texas to attend the University of Michigan, where he started as an engineering student. He soon changed his major to Theater & Literature, attending national poetry workshops and honing his acting skills. After beginning a graduate program in theater, Pat volunteered for the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam conflict, serving as an electronic communications officer in Turkey and Italy. He continued his education in the military, earning an MA in International Relations from Boston University.
Pat resigned his commission to begin a long diplomatic career with the U.S. State Department, serving overseas tours as a political officer in Italy, Lebanon, Tunisia, Kuwait, Israel, Malta, Nigeria and Barbados. An excellent linguist, he spoke in Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic and Hebrew. After retirement, he continued short-term assignments for the State Department, participating in the Future of Iraq Project (an unsuccessful attempt to prevent hostilities after 9/11), working to re-establish diplomatic relations with Libya, and as a political advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen. He also covered the Far East for the Avian Influenza Task Force, which planned America’s diplomatic response to a potential pandemic health event. This gave him a unique insight as the Covid-19 crisis developed.
Pat reconnected with his life partner, Sheila Austrian, also a retired diplomat, after he retired to Washington, DC. With a shared passion for community theater and mediocre golf games, Pat soon made Chestertown his full-time home. He taught a popular WC-ALL course at Washington College on current events in the Middle East and served in many capacities—actor, director, volunteer office manager and board chairman—at Church Hill Theatre. He was also a committed “fixer,” with a basement full of tools, batteries, glue, electronic gizmos and whatever else a house might need when things don’t work properly.
He is survived by his partner Sheila; twin daughters Meg Patterson (and her husband David Bienvenue) in Portola, California, and Beth Patterson, in Brisbane, Australia; Beth’s daughter Skye; and an older brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Nancy Patterson, who live in Chicago. Sheila’s children and grandchildren shared his love for the theater and enjoyed fishing and kayaking from his backyard on the Chester River.
Pat asked that any donations in his memory be made to Church Hill Theatre. A celebration of life will be held at a later time.