The region lost a pillar of the community Friday with the death of Sullivan County Commissioner Howard Patrick, said fellow District 6 Commissioner Michael Surgenor.
The two had served side by side in county government since 1990, both winning election that year.
Surgenor and others touched on many of the other words that started this story when asked to describe Patrick, 75, who died at Holston Valley Medical Center.
Surgenor said he and other commissioners visited with Patrick in the hours before his death.
“I thought the world of Howard,” Surgenor said.
Patrick was a avid supporter of the Bloomingdale Ruritan and several other civic and service organizations to which he belonged, Surgenor said.
“It’s a big shock to the whole community up here,” Surgenor said. “He was definitely a pillar of our community. More people new Howard Patrick than anyone. He knew everyone.”
And Patrick’s renown wasn’t limited by county or state borders. Before his work in Sullivan County, he was a businessman and public servant in Scott County, Va., where he maintained strong community ties.
While Patrick will perhaps be most remembered for the intangible but indelible — the mark he’s left on countless hearts and souls throughout his years of service — Surgenor said improvements to a local intersection also offer a lasting legacy of Patrick’s dedication to the community.
Not long after his 1990 election to the County Commission, Patrick became a proponent of making the John B. Dennis/Bloomingdale Pike/Wadlow Gap Road intersection a safer crossroads, Surgenor said. In the years since, the road has been widened and lighted.
Patrick was a longtime employee of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and later worked for an insurance company. But he also was a well-known and well-liked substitute teacher.
“He did it more or less just to be in the school,” Surgenor said. “He taught with special education. He loved working with the special ed students, and they loved Mr. Patrick. They really liked it when Mr. Patrick came to help out.”
Surgenor said Patrick will be remembered as a very sociable person.
In past years Patrick hosted other county officials at his home for an annual pig roast.
And a highlight of each year’s Bloomingdale Fun Fest Block Party was Patrick’s performance as country music legend Porter Wagoner — complete with a rhinestone jacket.
Patrick also loved to travel, Surgenor said.
“I’d say he’s been to every state in the union, and I know he’s been to Europe several times,” Surgenor said.
Commissioner John McKamey, who described Patrick as a great friend, said one particular memory of Patrick was a trip the two men and their wives took to the nation’s capital, for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
Patrick is survived by his wife of over 43 years, Pat Fuller Patrick, of the home; daughter, Ashley Ring, Kingsport; sisters, Lucille McDavid, Irene Bowen, both of Weber City; several nieces and nephews; and several great-nieces and nephews.
Calling hours will be from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Carter-Trent Funeral Home, Kingsport, with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard present.
The funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Bloomingdale Baptist Church with the Rev. Joe W. Byrd and Dr. Greg Burton officiating and eulogies by Jim Dye, Judge John McClellan, Nathan Vaughn, C.S. Dockery and Judge Phyllis Miller. The body will lie in state one hour prior to the service.
A military graveside service will be conducted at Oak Hill Cemetery with VFW Post 3382 and Chaplain Joe W. Byrd conducting the rites.
It’s up to the County Commission to appoint someone to fill Patrick’s District 6 seat for the next several months.
That person will serve until voters go to the polls in August, when there’ll be a spot on the ballot to fill the unexpired portion of Patrick’s current four-year term.