Harold Leroy Patterson


Harold Leroy Patterson, a cherished adopted Quinault and active participant in the Indian Shaker Church, died at the age of 92 on May 18, 2013, at his home in Brooklyn, Washington. He is also known affectionately as Mr. Pat and by his tribal name, KEmkEn (which is the Quinault word for Salmon). He was born on August 29, 1920, in Portland, Oregon to Alonzo and Mary Agnes (Wright) Patterson (known as May).

Mr. Pat worked odd jobs as a young man, then as a Border Patrol agent and was a gunner in the Army Air Corps. None of his early jobs resonated with that still voice he sought to hear within himself or with the fundamentalist Christian faith with which he wrestled. He entered the Army Air Corps during World War II where he was washed out of pilot school due to a surplus of pilots. As a waist gunner on the B17, he fell in love with his civilian gunnery teacher, Shirley Jean Van Hamm. They married on December 31, 1944.

After leaving the Army Air Corps, Patterson went back to work for the Border Patrol. Childless, he and Shirley decided to put faith into action and entered the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and graduated in 1955. Together, they sought to help Native American tribes first in Alaska, then in Taholah, where spiritually he was ignited.

He worked odd jobs, as “the teacher’s husband,” as his wife obtained emergency Washington teaching credentials. He soon earned his own and taught fifth and sixth grades. He was promoted to principal, then superintendent. He earned his second Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Seattle Pacific University (as it is known today) and a Master’s in Indian Education from the University of Washington. He and Shirley worked to improve education opportunities on the Harbor. In 1972, he and Shirley left their jobs in Taholah and he took a job with the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) in Olympia as Associate Supervisor of Indian Education. In his new role he worked with all School Districts in Washington State that had Indian students until his retirement in 1982. After his retirement, he continued to work part time for the SPI and on special projects for the Quinault Tribe of which the most significant was the revival of the Quinault language by reducing it to writing and organizing classes in the school and the community. This was a project that spanned more than 50 years. He also conducted or participated in many of the Indian Funerals over the last 55 years.

As a salmon swims upstream, Harold says he fights conventional wisdom when he hears that clear, still voice within, a voice that has guided him to stand up to the status quo as he lived and worked on the Harbor for close to 60 years. He fought not to have Quinault schools integrated during the civil rights movement so that their heritage could be protected. He made sure the language was taught in school. He also worked to make the language written and helped create a Quinault dictionary.

Surviving relatives include two sons, D. Bruce Patterson and his wife, Sônia Vieira Patterson of Manaus, Brazil and J. Mark Patterson and his wife, Cherie Patterson of Brooklyn; two grandchildren, Jason Harold Patterson and Daniel Vieria Patterson; and foster-children, Arlene Thomas of Tacoma, Philip Martin, Jr. of Taholah and Grace Hyasman of Olympia. Arlene’s twin sister, Helene died previously.

A candlelight service will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at the Coleman Mortuary in Hoquiam.

A funeral service will be at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 23, 2013, at Immanuel Baptist Church, 1200 Soule Avenue in Hoquiam, Wash. Interment at the Brooklyn Cemetery will conclude the services. A dinner will follow at the Community Center in Taholah.

The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to Quinault Indian Nation Education, PO Box 189, Taholah, Washington 98587.

Please take a few moments to record your thoughts for the family by signing the on-line register at www.colemanmortuary.net.