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Community mourns loss of Patterson

KITTS HILL — Lawrence County Commissioner George Patterson died Monday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 67.

Patterson, of Kitts Hill, was the longest serving commissioner in the county’s history. He was elected six times to the seat on the third floor of the courthouse. His tenure in that office alone totaled more than 20 years.

Lawrence County Commissioner Doug Malone served with Patterson during the last five years and said he respected the fellow Democrat as a tireless worker for Lawrence County’s citizens.

“It was a tremendous privilege to serve with George as

commissioner,”Malone said. “He was a good person to work with and he had all this experience to draw on. It was a great five years.”

Malone described Patterson as the consummate people-person, a man who knew few strangers.

“George loved people. Almost everyone in the county knew George,” Malone said. “This is a tremendous loss.”

Fellow commissioner Jason Stephens, a Republican, said he respected Patterson’s willingness to help those in need if he could, particularly those who needed help the most.

“He didn’t ask about their politics, he would try to help them and if they were needy he would go out of his way to help,” Stephens said.

What will he miss most about Patterson’s presence on commission?

“Just looking to my left and hearing that laugh. He was always full of life. When George was in the room there was always something to talk about and it would be interesting,” he said. Both he and Malone said their thoughts and prayers were with Patterson’s family.

Craig Allen, chairman of the Lawrence County Democratic Party, described Patterson as an approachable man who listened to people, though he did not always agree with them.

“You could walk up to George at a meeting and talk to him. He returned his phone calls and answered his mail and he was always available to his constituents,” he said. “He didn’t always do what he was asked, but you could always talk to George.”

Allen recalled Patterson as a modest man who had many attributes, but took few if any opportunities to boast about them.

“George was in the Marines, he was an outstanding high school football player and a lot of men, this would have been something they would have bragged about but George never did. He was modest,” Allen said.

Allen said one of the things he most admired about Patterson was his devotion to his family.

“He was an outstanding family man,” Allen said. “When his kids were involved in activities, he always put that first. I always admired that about him. Everyone talks about his public persona but he was a family man, too. I don’t think you find that as much in today’s world.”

Within the last year, Patterson was twice thanked for his public service in very public ways. In May, Patterson was honored when a portion of County Road 1 in Burlington was designated as the George Patterson Parkway. The tribute was the work of the Concerned Citizens of Burlington in recognition of Patterson’s support for projects that benefited the community.

In December 2005, Patterson was honored with a plaque and Sugar Maple tree on the courthouse lawn.

Patterson was first sworn in as commissioner in 1983. He served one term and lost an election. In 1990 he won election again and had served five consecutive terms since then.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Gene Sheridan Patterson, seven children and 16 grandchildren. His funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Joseph Catholic Church.