Memories of Patricia Ann ‘Patti’ Ryan Holcomb

MEMORIES OF PATTI

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We met Patti Ryan when we moved to Wallingford in 1992.  She became our hairdresser and a lifelong friend.  No one else was ever like Patti.  She was a perfectionist; an artist – quirky; bubbly; funny; encouraging and always personally interested in her friends’ lives.

It was Patti who in 1995 persuaded us to look at a home near her, where we still reside. At first, Patti and Russ regularly walked their dog, Newman, by our house.  When their son, Jackson, was born the walks continued with Jackson as we watched him grow.  Jackson had a casual, sweet demeanor.  He began to enjoy his visits even more when he realized we had a kitty.*

Their lives changed forever in September of 2001.  Patti was talking about wanting another child.  Instead, she was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor, Glioblastoma.  Her son Jackson was not yet two years old.  I remember visiting Patti in the hospital during the aftermath of 9/11.

Patti was a fighter and had a caring, loving support system here in Wallingford.  After much research, Russ realized the best chance of her survival was to move to North Carolina near Duke University and the best brain cancer treatments possible.  Though they were gone, contact with Patti and caring about them never changed.  In spite of it, Patti and Russ built a life around Jackson and raised a fine young man.  We stayed in touch by phone and Christmas cards.  Through the years, we loved coming home to find phone messages from Patti:  “Jeanne!!?!!   Greg!!?!!”  We knew who it was!  She cared about everyone’s life:  my photography,  Jake’s health, Greg and anything else.  Of course, we always talked about Jackson and lately his college plans!  The future always seemed bright and the cancer remained in remission.

Sadly, in the Fall of 2016,  Patti fell ill again.  The brain tumor had returned with a cruel vengeance.  After all these years it was hard to fathom.  There was chemo and radiation  and treatments very different than 15 years ago.  Finally, a month or two ago she didn’t want to talk about it any more.  It was different now and we talked about everything else.  Last week, I spoke to Patti for the last time.

Patti was 48 and lost her life the afternoon of July 19, 2017.  It will be hard to think about this world without her.  You would have to know her to understand.  She touched many lives and retained a support system all these years.  We will dearly miss her.

Please pray for and think of her family, especially Russ and Jackson who is 17.

We will be sharing memories in November as we gather to honor Patti’s life.

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*I wrote the following story in college several years ago:

Jackson and Sweet Pea

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If our front doorbell rang in rapid succession we knew Patti and Jackson had come to visit.

Jackson was almost three and his fascination with our doorbell had an added bonus, getting to see our illusive indoor cat, Sweet Pea.

Jackson quickly learned which house on the street was ours.  It did not take long before Jackson persuaded whoever was walking him to veer toward our house and up the stairs, so he could ring the doorbell and visit for a few minutes.  Front door, back door, it did not matter.  He would stand on his tiptoes, stretching his little arm as high as he could to reach the lit button.

Jackson was a handsome little boy with beautiful, big blue eyes, very blonde hair and a charming smile.  He had a big dog at home, so our Molly wasn’t a novelty, but that disappearing kitty made him beam.  Molly would follow Jackson around the house and he would casually push her aside in search of our cat who knew enough about children to disappear – up the stairs, down to the basement, or onto her porch.  At times, the cat would sit coyly at the top of the stairs watching Jackson.  When little Jackson took Greg’s hand to go upstairs the cat dashed under a bed where she was safe.  Jackson would squat down, as children so easily do, and giggled at the reclining cat just far enough away to escape those little hands.  Poor Molly begged for hugs and pets and play time from the energetic Jackson but he just wanted to find that cat.

As Jackson grew older, he began to ride his tricycle down the street at top speed.  He would suddenly stop in front of our house and dash into our yard.  Whoever was with him was left far behind.  He was so determined to find Sweet Pea.

The last time I saw Jackson in his Mom’s car, he waved at me with blue stained fingers.  Jackson sweetly asked:  “Where’s the kitty?”, when I noticed he also had a blue tongue.  He had been playing with a friend and ended up sucking on a magic marker.

Jackson was all boy; who charmed you with his sweet demeanor.  We still talk about Jackson and his fascination with Sweet Pea.  They moved away but how sweet it would be to see them all again.

Jeanne L. Gherardi; October 9, 2002

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