The Square Dancing Pilot
Mother Theresa said, “unless life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile.” If that is truly the measure, then Don Patterson is indeed living a worthy life. An Intermountain Board member since 2001, Don embodies service before self. He has contributed countless hours in his role as a Board member and related committee work. Whatever the task, Don is always among the first to not only commit, but to also follow through. Not long after his appointment to the Board, his involvement became personal:
“Having lunch with the kids really brought it home to me the significance of being on the Board. Once you get involved with the kids you see the connection…”
Don Patterson moved to Montana in 1948 when his father, an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, was assigned to the Hungry Horse Dam project. His parents loved to square dance (his father was a caller), and they would sometimes drag Don along. One such square dance proved to be rather significant to Don’s future:
“On one occasion, my parents used as persuasion to go with them this cute girl who had been coming, but who didn’t have anyone to dance with.”
The cute girl was Mary, and she and Don were married 5 years later. That was 53 years ago; they have 3 children, 5 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.
Don served 24 years as a pilot in the United States Air Force. He flew 108 missions in Vietnam, all of them uneventful, except for one:
“We were taking off out of Guam – a short runway at the edge of the sea – when we lost two of our engines. We gave it all we had and there was that moment where we honestly didn’t know if we were going to crash into the sea or climb out of it. Fortunately, we climbed out of it.”
Don retired at 52 and went to work for Glacier Presbytery, serving several roles before becoming the General Presbyter from 2001 to 2008.
Don and Mary’s servant-like spirit is also evident in their financial giving. They give liberally to their church, Intermountain, as well as other causes. When they were approached about a legacy commitment for the Centennial Initiative, the Patterson’s decided that monthly cash gifts – rather than a future commitment – worked best for them. Today, the combined amount of those monthly gifts represents a sizable gift to Intermountain’s endowment. They have decided to continue their significant monthly support towards the Comprehensive Campaign.
Looking to the future, Don is overwhelmed by the number of kids who are affected by relational poverty. He envisions Intermountain as being a leader and advocate in establishing and growing services for struggling children in the Flathead and beyond.