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Moments in Time: Bea Patterson
Bea Patterson (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
JUDA - Bea Patterson has retired from a career she loved in health care and now spends her days breathing in the fresh air, enjoying family and friends and helping make dreams come true for veterans.

The Juda resident is happy to be a part of the Badger Honor Flight program that, four times a year, continues to amaze her.

Patterson grew up in Argyle on a dairy farm with six siblings. She was expected to help out with farm chores and remembers filling the wood stove and the water reservoir along with her other duties. The family raised chickens, pigs, goats, ducks and more on the large farm.

She attended Dry Goods Box Country School and remembers the long walk to and from her classroom. She has fond memories of picking apples behind her house on the way to school and walking with neighbors who met them along the way.

The 1964 Argyle High School graduate said she was an average student but always enjoyed school, and in her spare time, she would babysit for neighbors and family friends.

After graduation, Patterson had a plan and took a class with Sister Edith to be a nurse's aide at the hospital.

"I'd always loved helping people," she said of her career choice. Patterson said that during much of her childhood, she helped people in their homes, caring for them or their children, and she used to stay with her great-grandmother to help her until she passed away.

It was that natural nurturing need inside of her that led her throughout her career in health care. After working as a nurse's aide in Monroe at the hospital for about 20 years, she eventually became the ward secretary until one day, change presented itself.

A doctor unexpectedly asked Patterson if she would be interested in becoming an anesthesia aide. It wasn't something Patterson had considered before, but she took on the new role and eventually became a Certified Anesthesia Technician and loved it. She began working at the Monroe Clinic, but finished her career at the Madison Day Surgery for her final 11 working years before retiring five years ago.

A photo book given to her at her retirement tells a story of the many relationships she held and friends and co-workers who meant so much to her. Patterson said the people she worked with were important and she loves that she still hears from several doctors and coworkers even now.

Patterson was ready to retire when the time came, and after more than four decades in the health care profession, she was happy with her longtime career and was ready to do what she wanted.

"If there's something you want to do, do it," she said. "Don't put it off."

Patterson did just that at her retirement, and since both she and her husband, Leo, had dreamed of a trip to Alaska, one of the first things she did was plan a month-long vacation that they both enjoyed.

Although the couple lived in Monroe after they were first married, they have lived in Juda for more than 40 years. Patterson loves working in her yard, grilling out and enjoying neighbors while she walks long distances each day. After working inside for so many years, being outside is important to her, even when the weather isn't perfect.

Patterson also enjoys stamping and making her own greeting cards, a hobby a friend got her into about seven years ago. She enjoys making things and likes the personal touch it gives to family and friends who receive them.

Patterson is also a member of St. Clare of Assisi Parish and volunteers at the mobile food pantry, and she assists with the Apostolate To The Handicap regularly.

Honoring veterans

Patterson found the Badger Honor Flight program online one day and decided immediately she wanted to help out in some way as a volunteer. The program is a regional affiliate of the national Honor Flight Network whose purpose is to ensure that WWII and terminally ill veterans from any war have the opportunity to see the memorials that have been erected in their honor.

Patterson's husband is a veteran who served in the Air Force in Vietnam, and she felt something inside her telling her how wrong it was that these people hadn't been properly thanked for their service.

"To think that there's so many people that haven't been told "thank you' for what they did is so sad," she said. "We would not have what we have if it wasn't for them."

She attended a training for the volunteer work and decided she wanted to give her time to help. She is part of a group that helps veterans get fitted for their jackets, making sure all paperwork is correct and simply greets people and holds the flags at their departure and return.

In October of 2014, she went on the trip with a veteran who needed assistance and they met up with his son, who worked at the Pentagon.

Patterson is there four times a year when the area veterans fly out. She makes sure everyone is registered, provides support during the prayer and speakers and is there while the plane loads. She's back to assist by 7 p.m., preparing for the plane's landing at approximately 9 p.m. to welcome the veterans home.

"It's just amazing to see the procession and all of the people there to greet them home," she said. Although she's been helping since 2010, she said the experience never gets old.

Patterson has picture books of the event but said photographs can't do the experience justice. She said anyone who wants to see it should contact her. She is a huge supporter of the program and knows there are still several people even in the local area that should get signed up to go. She almost always has forms with her and hands them out to anyone interested.

"There's something about it," she said. "Just to see the looks on their faces and to see how happy they are." She enjoys greeting the thousands of people in the line and said the experience is one that is unbelievable.

"Other than getting married and having kids, it's the best thing I've ever done," she said. "I'll do it as long as I can."

Patterson is now looking forward to her husband getting to make the trek with the group soon as well, which will be particularly special for her.

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Patterson is grateful for each day and spends her free time enjoying her three children, Paul, Mark and Brenda, and said she loves spending time with her seven grandchildren.