Arlene Jean Patt
First, a few details: Arlene Jean Patt, formerly Arlene Jean Bailey, passed away on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, at Faith Gardens in Sun Prairie. Her passing was peaceful and her three children, Jeff, Jennifer and John, were with her during the last two days of her life. Her resilience and inner-strength were evident to the end, a testimony to the Bailey family fortitude that has sustained this amazing family throughout our lives.
Arlene is preceded in her passing by her five older sisters and all three of her older brothers. Her remaining sibling, Douglas Bailey (and his wonderful wife Ann), still reside in Madison (though as I am writing this they are basking in the hot Florida sun and so here with us in spirit only). Arlene is survived by her three children, Jeff and his wife Jane, Jennifer, John, her grandchildren Ben, Shannon, Alison, Zachary, John (did you notice that the letter J is a common feature of Patt and Bailey names?) and James (see what I mean?), and her great grandchildren Marley, Brennan, Owen and, wait for it…Jake. She graduated from Madison East High School and went immediately after graduation to work at the telephone company. She married the love of her life, James Patt, on May 29, 1948 and they remained happily married until our father’s passing in August of 2006.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff, the things that have defined Arlene’s personality and the life she led for all her 91 wonderful years and that will make anyone who has had the opportunity to know her miss her so very much.
Anyone who knew my mother (and I am saying this for my other two siblings as well) knows how caring, giving and kind our mother was. I think this is probably her most endearing quality. She gave completely and selflessly particularly to her children and grandchildren. There wasn’t a self-serving bone in her body (OK, maybe a little one when it came to clothes), but she would gladly go without food and water if it meant that one of her grandchildren was nourished and well-fed.
This brings me to her second most redeeming quality – banana cream pie, or more broadly, her absolute mastery of cooking in general and desserts in particular. Ask any of my siblings or grandchildren what they remember most about mom and I’ll bet the answers will be banana cream pie, homemade chocolate eclairs (yes, everything was made from scratch) and strawberry rhubarb pie. So far I made it through the cuisine section without mentioning Lutefisk, need I say more? But if there must be a fourth, and possibly fifth item(s) added to the all-time greatest hits of mom’s cooking prowess it would have to be her endless varieties of Christmas cookies and Krumkake. Christmas in our house growing up in Milwaukee was defined by the 27 different varieties of Christmas cookies she made. Later in her life she channeled her inner Norwegian and introduced us all to Krumkake. Her 11-year-old grandson, Zachary, was so smitten with the delectable taste of these Norwegian delicacies, that he called her and begged her to send him a Krumkake iron so he could make them himself. Of course, within a week we received a package at our door with the said Krumkake iron. There will be no mention of the chipped beef that was foisted on my sister and me throughout the mid-late 50’s and for good reason. I have often postulated that if it wasn’t for the chipped beef I ingested while sitting around that kitchen table growing up in Milwaukee I would have grown to the 6′-4″ height I imagined for myself and had that NBA career I fantasized about as a young boy of 14.
Her third most redeeming quality was her skill as a seamstress. If there was something that could be sewn mom could sew it; not just with marginal success, but with a skill and attention to detail that put her in another class of craftsmanship. Her finished items were a sight to behold; beautifully sewn items that fit their intended recipient as if they had just stepped off the pages of Vogue Magazine. And it was this skill and passion that provided such a powerful first connection between my mom and my wife that lasted over 40 years.
But perhaps my mother’s most remarkable quality of all that she exhibited over the years was her ability to endure the crazy, scary and often wild things her children and grandchildren could do and never for a minute stop loving us or wanting us to succeed at whatever crazy scheme or idea we were concocting. The love within a mother’s heart is boundless and it is this love that she has shown to all of us – brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, that we will miss most. She made us feel loved and made us feel safe, and this was her greatest gift of all.
We love you mom.
A visitation is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 20 from 2-3 p.m. at Gunderson East Funeral Home, 5203 Monona Drive, Madison, WI 52716. A memorial gathering will follow.
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