Longtime Gilroy resident Mary Jane Pattie was known as a fierce advocate for seniors.
She was a founder of Live Oak Adult Day Care, Wheeler Manor Housing and St. Louise Hospital Auxiliary, where she served as president for many years. Pattie was also active with Gilroy Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, and she and her husband Frank were members of Gilroy Presbyterian Church as elders, deacons and singers in the choir.
Pattie was also a constant figure in the pages of the Dispatch, through articles and letters on issues affecting the residents of Wheeler Manor.
But she and her husband were surprised that their work was recognized by community members, with Pattie being quoted in a 1998 Dispatch article as saying “it seems like nothing to us.”
Pattie died on May 19, concluding a lifetime of service. She was 93.
A celebration of her life will be held on Aug. 7 at 10:30am at Gilroy Presbyterian Church, 6000 Miller Ave.
“She was really organized, very good with people, very diplomatic, very kind,” said her daughter Linda.
Born on April 13, 1928 in New Jersey to William and Martha Shunk, Mary Jane met Frank during World War II and was married shortly after the war in 1949.
Two of their young children died within months of each other, which led the Patties toward a path of service to others.
They were quoted in a Dispatch article as saying, “those early losses changed our lives, our values and everything else.”
The Patties, along with their two children Steven and Linda, moved from the East Coast in 1959, and “fell in love with California,” Linda said, first moving to Mountain View before settling in Gilroy in 1967 on a 17-acre apple orchard off of Redwood Retreat Road.
Linda recalled a time when her mother was head of the Wheeler Hospital Auxiliary that demonstrated her welcoming personality. A woman arrived at the auxiliary’s coffee shop, inquiring about volunteering. A volunteer working at the desk told her that “we don’t have uniforms big enough for you,” and the woman, discouraged and offended, left.
“My mother was shocked and appalled,” Linda said.
So, Pattie was able to catch up to the woman, who was sitting at a bus stop about to depart, and apologized, telling her the auxiliary would have a uniform ready for her. That woman ended up volunteering for decades, Linda said.
Steven said his mother was the “quintessential example of a volunteer,” staying active with numerous organizations without the thought of recognition.
Mary Jane loved being a homemaker, Steven said, and she would always be there to support her children as well as have every meal prepared when they came home from school (she was well-known for her apple pizza, her children noted).
Steven added that his mother would always be there for others, whether they were in mourning or needed a helping hand.
“She was always visiting people,” he said. “It was part of her DNA to go and hold people’s hands and have tea.
“She was this very modest person. She just had a heart for serving.”