Obituary of Robert Patterson
Some time ago, the late comedian Carl Reiner did an HBO special called “If you’re not in the
obit, eat breakfast”. Well, I’m not having breakfast today. Even if you didn’t know me, I hope
you will enjoy my account of a life that was long and wonderful. Robert Michael Patterson (me)
was born 9/10/42 in Norristown, Pa, the first of three children (Elizabeth and John) of Harry F
and Dorothy L Patterson. I was born in Montgomery County Hospital as were Baseball Hall of
Famers, Tommy Lasorda and Mike Piazza. Thus the baseball thing.
At a mere 9 months old, we relocated from Norristown to Elkton, Maryland where dad’s
employer, Philadelphia Electric Company had a hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River
nearby and thus provided electric services to several counties in northeast Maryland.
Elementary school was at the Catholic Immaculate Conception School. Two story, four
classrooms (two grades per) adjacent to the convent. First and second grade had over 100
kids in one room. No problem for Sister Tomasita. Followed by Sister Alexine, Sister Regina
and finally Sister Alma. Think they had an impact? Meanwhile, organized kids baseball came to
Elkton and my dad and I were all over it. Highlight here was as a 13 year old pitching for the
league champion Moose Club against an all-star team and completing a 6 inning perfect game.
As 8th grade progressed, I assumed that I was destined for Elkton High School, but my didsome-
college-but-did-not-graduate parents had other ideas. They took me 30 miles away to
Claymont, Delaware to a small Catholic Boys College Prep School named Archmere Academy
to take an entrance examination. I guess I passed, because the next thing I knew I was riding
the Pennsylvania Railroad from Elkton to Claymont every day to and from school.
Archmere was a enriching experience highlighted by President of the student body in my senior
year along with All-State baseball pitcher. Partial baseball scholarships were offered by Duke
and Notre Dame and the Catholic guilt won out oblivious to what the weather was like in
Northern Indiana during college baseball season. A teammate at Archmere was future senator
and vice president Joe Biden.
While Notre Dame was not very large, 4800 students compared to 200 at Archmere was a bit
overwhelming. Baseball dominated the schedule until spring practice junior year when a
recurring lower back disc injury disqualified me from further play. It was probably more gentle
for the doctor to tell me that I would not play Major League Baseball than a major league scout.
I had never doubted in my teenage mind that I would play Major League Baseball, the only
question was whether I would make the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Upon graduation in 1964, the first in my family, I accepted an offer from IBM to join their
computer sales office in South Bend. The next 7 years were highlighted by my selling Notre
Dame their first IBM computer and getting married and having two children, Erin and Michael.
1971 brought an offer from IBM to get involved in a real estate project in Chicago just as the
marriage was coming apart. So I moved to Chicago alone and started what would be a 35 year
career in commercial real estate development specializing in high rise office buildings. While in
Chicago, I attended the University of Chicago Executive Program for two years, while working,
and was awarded an MBA in 1978. In the summer of 1977 between semesters, I rewarded
myself with a week long trip to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in
Sonoma, CA and started a 20 year adventure of racing sports cars on weekends. Highlights
here were winning the South East Region class championship in 1988 and qualifying for the
annual Sports Car Club of America National Championship Race 5 times with a best finish of
5th. While the racing ended in 1998, I did own a 2017 Corvette which I got up to 148mph on
the back straight at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2019 at age 77.
1981 brought an opportunity with Faison Associates, a commercial real estate developer in
Charlotte, to do a major high rise office building in the center city for a small local bank named
NCNB. I spent 13 years at Faison doing major high rises in Charlotte, Charleston, Jacksonville,
Tampa, Roanoke and Milwaukee. 1994 found that little local bank NCNB had merged into a
bigger bank, NationsBank, and the mergers had created some real estate occupancy issues
that needed focus from real estate professionals. A department was set up and I was recruited
to be the “deal” person to do transactions to help resolve these issues. I went from dealing
with the gorilla to being the gorilla. This period was highlighted by me leading a 150+ building,
8 million sq ft disposition transaction that Forbes Magazine called the largest sale/partial
leaseback that they had ever seen and was awarded the “Most Creative Deal of 2003” by the
International Building Owners and Managers Association. By that time the bank was known as
Bank of America.
Meanwhile, not long after I arrived in Charlotte, I met Cyndee Gibson who would quickly
become my best friend and life partner. We married in 1982 and she began a political career
that dubbed me “Mr Cyndee” around Charlotte. In 1988 son Hank Patterson arrived and is still
the only child born of a sitting Charlotte City Council member. The baseball theme continued
and it was not long before he was good enough that I got the additional name “Hank’s Dad”.
For his 4 years of Little League, I ran a two week baseball summer day camp for kids that age
and we all loved it. Community involvement included serving on boards in the arts (Arts and
Science Council, The Opera, Charlotte Repertory Theatre) and civic organizations (A Child’s
Place, WFAE Public Radio, World Affairs Council, International Business Fellows and
Mecklenburg Park and Recreation).
Throughout this whole period the closest thing to a religious experience for me was baseball.
As I moved around, I adopted the team closest to where I lived. The Phillies, the Cubs, and the
Braves until several years ago when a very close family friend became the manager of the St.
Louis Cardinals. Various religions have a sacred place that they visit to refresh their
commitment. Rome, Mecca, Jerusalem, etc. Baseball’s is The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,
NY. I have visited 6 times.
2006 brought retirement, looking after mom, lots of travel with Cyndee, 3 granddaughters
(Clara, Inga and Amelia), children of my daughter, Erin Frye and son, Michael Patterson and
adding Allison Blake to our family as another beloved daughter.
Aldous Huxley said: “Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what
happens to you.” Thank you to wonderful family and friends who helped me “do” a long and
Celebration at Belle Acres to follow Covid-19. Memorials can be sent to the Robert Patterson
Eviction Protection Fund at Crisis Assistance Ministry established by my family and friends.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Patterson, please visit Tribute Store