Donald Hamilton 'Pat' Patterson Jr.

[Age 63] Son and grandson of Sun publishers was an executive with Landmark Communications in Norfolk.

July 30, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Donald Hamilton "Pat" Patterson Jr., the son and grandson of publishers of The Sun who went on to become an executive with Landmark Communications in Norfolk, Va., died of melanoma Saturday at his Virginia Beach, Va., home. The former Homeland resident was 63.

Mr. Patterson was born and raised in Annapolis, and graduated from the Gilman School in 1963. After earning a bachelor's degree from Washington & Lee University in 1967, he enlisted in the Navy.

Mr. Patterson, who attained the rank of lieutenant, served in Vietnam, where he commanded a Swift boat.

"His fellow Swifties rallied around him in his final days with words of encouragement, stories of bravery and commendation," his wife of 16 years, the former Elizabeth A. Tew, said yesterday.

After returning from the Navy in 1971, Mr. Patterson began his newspaper career in the advertising department of The Boston Globe.

When Mr. Patterson went to work in The Sun's advertising department as a salesman in 1973, he was the third generation of his family to join the staff of the newspaper.

His father, Donald H. Patterson Sr., who had joined the newspaper in 1946 as production manager, was publisher from 1977 and also president of the parent A.S. Abell Co. until retiring in 1983.

His grandfather, Paul C. Patterson, whose tenure as publisher was the longest in the newspaper's history, held the position from 1919 to 1951.

"Pat was always very proud of his Sun heritage," Mrs. Patterson said.

Mr. Patterson later held several management positions in the circulation department before being named assistant business manager in 1981.

In 1983, he left The Sun and took a job with Landmark Communications, where he held positions in circulation and human relations and as production chief at The Virginian-Pilot in Hampton Roads, Va.

"He was a delightful person to work with and, like his father, loved production and followed in his footsteps," said John H. Plunkett, a longtime assistant managing editor at The Sun, who is retired.

"He was a person of no pretense, and it was a pleasure to be associated with him. Both Pattersons always had really good feelings for the people they worked with," Mr. Plunkett said.

"Thick walls once separated the business side of the newspaper from the editorial side; however, I got to know Pat," said James S. Keat, a retired Sun assistant managing editor. "He was an extremely bright guy and very capable, and, like his father, while not terribly outgoing, was quietly competent."

While in Baltimore, Mr. Patterson had been an active member of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

"Pat wanted The Sun to be more of a participant in the community than it had been, and he thought it would be a good idea to see if we could get the 1980 presidential debate" to be held in Baltimore, said Christopher C. Hartman, a public relations executive and former director of the CPHA.

Thanks to the combined efforts of Mr. Patterson and Mr. Hartman, Baltimore's Convention Center became the site of a nationally televised debate between Republican Ronald Reagan and independent John B. Anderson.

"[President Jimmy] Carter was in some snort of snit and wouldn't come," Mr. Hartman recalled the other day.

"Don said we ought to have something after the debate upstairs in the Convention Center, where the debate was held, and my first thought was, 'Who's going to pay for it?' He paid for it, as he helped pay part of the fee we had to pay to the League of Women Voters for the debate," he said.

"We were all very pleased. He thought it was good for Baltimore because press from all over the world covered the debate," Mr. Hartman said. "Had it not been for Don Patterson, it would never have happened."

John O. "Dubby" Wayne, now retired from Landmark Communications, where he had been chief executive officer for 12 years, said that Mr. Patterson excelled at every job he was given.

"Pat had newspapering in his blood," Mr. Wayne said yesterday.

"He was a very disciplined guy who spent all of his time not worrying about how to implement a plan but finding the right people to do it," he said. "He was superb at that; because he had been in the Navy, he knew the value of teamwork."

Mr. Patterson was an executive vice president and president of Landmark's broadcasting division, where he headed the transition to digital television at the company's two stations.

After retiring from Landmark in 2004, Mr. Patterson went to work as president and CEO of SteelMaster Building Systems, a Virginia Beach manufacturer of arched steel buildings.

He retired this month, family members said.

Mr. Patterson was an avid ocean sailor; in addition to completing a TransAtlantic race, he competed in 11 races from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda.

"Perhaps his most natural and enjoyable position of leadership was at the helm as proud skipper of his racing yacht Orion," Mrs. Patterson said.

He was a communicant of Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, where services were held Monday.

Also surviving are a son, Donald H. Patterson III of Virginia Beach; a daughter, Catherine S. Patterson of Denver; two stepsons, Mike Kirk of Nags Head, N.C., and Jeff Kirk of Vacaville, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Marie Clunan of Leesburg, Va.; a brother, Timothy C. Patterson of Annapolis; two sisters, Elizabeth Langslet of Southport, N.C., and Susan Davis of Annapolis; and three grandchildren.

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