Writer, poker player, astute barn-saler, grandmother. Born Aug. 17, 1936, in Tisdale, Sask., died Feb. 27, 2012, in North Vancouver of cancer, aged 75.
Pat took first place in a Canada-wide essay-writing contest at 15, winning a full scholarship to the Banff School of Fine Arts. At 16, she won a National Newspaper Award. From then on, there was no stopping her.
She developed her talent in Calgary at The Albertan and the Herald and in Edmonton at the Journal, but she learned to love it at The Winnipeg Tribune with editor Eric Wells, whose name Pat would utter softly, “Ahh! … Eric.” (She was not alone.)
Fred Annesley, a cub reporter at the Trib, fresh from Northern Ireland, clearly remembers the very moment he fell in love with Pat, when she deftly stood her ground against a senior English reporter challenging her over the correct use and spelling of the word aluminum. Pat and Fred married and had two remarkable and lovely daughters, Allison and Erin, who in turn begat five grandchildren.
Throughout her life, Pat was extravagantly absent-minded. On out-of-town assignments, she often misplaced her expense money, her travel documents, even her ID. Still, it did not impede her stellar rise from those early years to a daily column at The Toronto Telegram and later as a writer for Maclean’s magazine.
In the early 1970s, she abandoned journalism for TVOntario, where she ran its Information Services. Organization was not one of Pat’s strengths, but she inspired the same dedication from her colleagues as Eric Wells had inspired in her.
Jennifer Rae, who on her first day inadvertently sent out a TVO press release about Canada’s Postmaster General – and spelled Bryce Mackasey’s name wrong – recalls: “Senior management was apoplectic. [But] Pat told me not to worry; she was behind me. She became my mentor and friend ever after.”
Pat loved people, places, flowers, cats, Scrabble and crossword puzzles, and was a furiously competitive poker player. And she loved to sing. She and Bette Laderoute, an old Tely friend, sang full out while driving country roads in search of barn sales and auctions.
In 1983, after a failed second marriage, Pat repaired to Vancouver and returned to freelancing. Southam correspondent Ben Tierney introduced her to Harvey Southam, who quickly assigned Pat to profile Premier Bill Bennett.
Pat produced a highly personal story, late and twice as long as Harvey had space for. “Why don’t you run it in two parts,” Pat said. He did, and it won the top prize at the B.C. Magazine Awards a few months later.
Pat’s last two years were beset by cancer, but she stayed fearless. Eventually, she took no calls from friends, explaining she needed to keep her own counsel. “I have my family, that’s all I really need.” And recently, under a crescent moon, the family scattered Pat’s ashes with her mother’s, out on Indian Arm, where they’d scattered Pat’s brother Ken’s ashes 25 years earlier.