L. Brooks Patterson remembered
The L. Brooks Patterson era will be remembered as halcyon days for Oakland County, said Dave VanderVeen of Clarkston, colleague and lifelong friend.
“We’ve lost a wonderful person, a man who will be remembered for his kindness and loyalty, and as a protector of Oakland County,” said VanderVeen, director of central services and Patterson’s designee on the Parks Commission. “His accomplishments as county executive are legendary.”
Patterson, Oakland County executive since 1993, died at 5:30 a.m., Aug. 3, at his Independence Township home surrounded by family and friends after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
This past April, the longtime area resident announced he was battling the disease. He said then,while he wouldn’t seek another term, he would, however, work until he no longer could.
Steve Percival of Clarkston remembers first meeting Patterson on a bar stool at the Moose Preserve on Woodward Avenue before he became the county executive.
“He looked familiar, but I was young and couldn’t put a name to the face,” said Percival, a former mayor of Clarkston. “We were both waiting separately for other folks we were meeting that evening. It was just he and I sitting there. He ordered a drink and asked if I was ready. We talked for about 30 minutes. He learned I worked for Children’s Village and he stated he use to work for the county. Said he was looking to come back someday. His party showed up and he stood, grabbed my tab, shook my hand and introduced himself as L. Brooks.”
Over the years, Patterson never forgot Percival’s name and often at the county or at Baker College, would make a point to come speak with him.
“He appreciated the work that we did for the county. He held you accountable, however; praised when deserved,” Percival said. “After 9/11, he rallied the county employees. He sailed a giant flag on the courthouse and brought us together; inspired us to help our fellow citizens and those brave first responders in NYC, DC, and Pennsylvania.”
Percival stopped by his office a week or so after and presented him a Gold USA Flag lapel pin.
“Many years later I’d notice the pin on his jacket. He never forgot that the employees from the Children’s Village gave it to him,” Percival said. “I grew to know him more after I left county employment, as an elected official to a county board and via Leadership Oakland. I will forever miss his standard greeting each time we met these past three years; ‘Mr. Mayor, pull up a chair (or bar stool).'”
Patterson was proud of Clarkston and the great things happening here.
“All you had to do was ask him to get involved, attend a meeting, participate in parades, or come praise our sport teams championships,” Percival said. “Or, when setting up a private meeting between him and Don Rush a few months ago. He never said no and was honored to be asked. He will be missed by many. We all can be grateful he was ours and that he fought hard on our behalf.”
Patterson was over halfway through an unprecedented seventh term as Oakland County executive, first taking office on Jan. 1, 1993. In addition, he served with distinction as Oakland County prosecutor from Jan. 1, 1973-Dec. 31, 1988.
Patterson was a big promoter of quality of life initiatives, parks and recreation, and sound fiscal practices, VanderVeen said.
“He instinctively knew the right thing to do for Oakland County. He loved people and people loved him,” VanderVeen said. “He was very creative. His mind was very fertile. He set up programs and got out of the way. He was a great leader and delegator, with great vision. He worked hard and played hard.”
Patterson had a strong persona and a razor sharp sense of humor, but he also had a soft underside, VanderVeen said.
During the 1980’s, Patterson established The Rainbow Connection which grants wishes to terminally ill children, and served as president of the organization. To date, the organization has granted more than 3,500 wishes.
“He was a great family man,” VanderVeen said. “He leaves behind one of the best managed counties in the country with a robust economy.”
One of his greatest among many initiatives was the three-year budget. Oakland County was the first in the United States to adopt a balanced three-year, rolling, line-item budget with a five-year outlook.
“I don’t think people realize how important the three-year budget was,” said Tom Middleton of Clarkston, who worked with Patterson as a member of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners for 10 years. “Brooks always believed in it. It added stability and made the budget easier to manage.”
It worked so well other municipalities wanted to copy the practice, which Patterson was always happy to do, Middleton said.
Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald D. Poisson was sworn in as Oakland County executive on Aug. 3 by Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown. Pursuant to Public Act 139 of 1973, Poisson will assume the duties of county executive until the Board of Commissioners appoints a replacement. If the board does not appoint a successor within 30 days, the law mandates a special election be held.
“In the meantime, we’ll continue his programs and stay with the mission,” VanderVeen said.
Visitation will be on Wednesday, Aug. 14, from 3-8 p.m. and Thursday, Aug. 15, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., at Woodside Bible Church – Troy Campus, 6600 Rochester Road between Square Lake Road and South Boulevard. Visitation is open to the public.
Funeral will be on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 1:30 p.m., at Woodside Bible Church – Troy Campus. The funeral is open to the public. A burial with full military honors will be private. Coats Funeral Home in Clarkston is handling the funeral arrangements.
Patterson was born in Loogootee, Ind. on Jan. 4, 1939, to Margie and Hubert Patterson. Prior to earning his law degree from the University of Detroit, Patterson served in the U.S. Army from 1962-1964.
Patterson is survived by his son Dr. Dayne (Heather) Rogers of Davisburg, daughters Mary (Gary) Warner of Clarkston and Shawn Sutherland of Waterford, daughter-in-law Jessie (Charlie) Damavoletes of Waterford, former wife Kathy (Bruce) Patterson of Clarkston, 11 grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. His son Brooks “Brooksie” Stuart Patterson preceded him in death in a tragic snowmobile accident in 2007. Patterson was also predeceased by his twin brother Stephen, sister Harriett Hayden, and nephew Timothy Hayden, all three of whom died of cancer.
“Our dad was a courageous fighter all his life and he fought right up until the end,” said Mary Warner, in a statement on behalf of the family. “Our family is grieving over the unimaginable loss of our father, grandfather, hero, and friend. Many will remember him for his impact on Michigan and generosity toward Oakland County. We’ll remember him for his love and generosity toward his family and friends.”