SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Linda Brownstein


August 14, 2009

I thank you Dave Keifer, old friend for writing such a true, beautiful, sad story about our friend Pat. I remember walking behind you on your first date with Charlotte as you both giggled down the Pine St. Hill together. I thank you Ketchikan, Alaska for being the place in my life that grounds me with some of my life's most precious memories and dearest friends. Thank you to the real White Cliff School-where tucked away in the corner of the first floor--always busy...never quiet...soil/gardening and paint stains always on the was always happenin' in my Kindergarten classroom there. Thank you to Pat Doherty--my student there who pushed me to learn that fish don't just just have fins...even when you are just a kindergartener...they have adipose fins, dorsal fins, anal fins,pelvic fins and pectoral fins...and I watched him as he carefully copied the letters of the names of these fins as he labeled his salmon chart/diagram, writing the words before he could really spell or read...proud as can be that his mom Susan, the fish biologist, brought that fish in a bucket to class that day.

Pat and my son Natan were friends even while they were in utero. His mom, Sue and I would walk the south road together back in the years before she ran and ran and biked it over again and we would laugh while we pushed Natan in the stroller --realizing how our sons would be friends--like we were friends. Ketchikan...kind of does that to you--stuck on the island together where friends become family and then in my whole life--no other friends anywhere can ever measure up in the way we have all known friendships with each other in Ketchikan.

I sit here in Oregon writing this piece for Pat as we have just approached this one month of the horrific tragedy that took this beautiful spark from our lives. I am atop Cascade head on the coastal Nature Conservancy land in northern Oregon.

So just about mid May--on Mother's Day, Sue called me in Portland, Oregon. I was out treating myself to dance NIA on Mother's Day.

My daughter Lieba told me when I returned, "Mom you'd better call Sue. Either she's coming to Portland or Pat is coming to Portland soon...this summer." Soon. this summer. Oy.

I called Sue the next morning from work and sure enough Pat was coming through that day.

"Hey Sue," I said, "Give me more than 12 hours warning next time. OK?" Next time. Oh my G-d. Next time.

Pat was on his way home to Ketchikan from Boston...back to Ketchikan and he was psyched on everything in and coming up in his life. Sue thought Natan would be back home in PDX and so she routed Pat's flight through Portland. Natan spent his freshman year in Israel and he wasn't home yet in mid May. Now, I'm hardly a substitute for meeting up with Natan...and his energy, love and enthusiasm, (Remember Natan?) but my deep love for Pat and my long friendship with his family would have me do anything for them and have it no other way. I canceled my two appointments for that evening. Pat's coming!! I could hardly wait!! My son's best friend. My best friend's son. We are all so intricately woven in this Ketchikan web no matter how far away we travel.

I met Pat at the airport, Tues. evening May 12. There he was...charging up his cell phone at the door of the airport, near the revolving doors. Both our cell phones had died. Now if you have a teenage son, or a know it's a little hard to let them let you hug 'em and kiss 'em. Not Pat and me. He let me treat him like my own son. He was like a son to me. And I know I am part of his village.

All his luggage--it took up my whole Subaru. And that was just the 50 Pound each bag part and the carry ons. He had left the other stuff at his aunt's house in the Boston area for when he got back to school. For when he got back to school.

"I didn't know you played the guitar," I said to Pat when I noticed his gig bag.

"I taught myself, "Pat said. "It's my mom's guitar. She fixed it up and gave it to me." Hey Sue, I didn't know you played the guitar.

After we loaded up, I took Pat home to pick up my kids who were anxiously waiting to see Pat. My once 4 year old twins, now 15 years old, walked outside in the spring night. It was an unbelievable re-reunion. Ilan, my once 2 pound son, was taller than Pat. Ilan and Pat shared guitar, music and swapped band stories. Lieba and Pat shared chemistry, math and algebra. We all became fast friends.

We went out for a late dinner and I kept asking Pat questions and more questions like I would do with my son, and he kept answering and talkin'. Stories about this year about his life in Boston, BU. His beautiful life. the chem, the biology classes, the labs, the challenge of finding the right class match, the dorm living, his roommate, his new friends, his old friends, the guys in the dorm, the T train, fun in the city, his now famous "too much luggage-jump off the T train -s o not to miss the airport stop" story, his Boston family of aunts, uncles, cousins, Thanksgiving with them, the Red Sox, his Ketchikan friends, the kids I knew too, his car, the winter driving, the summer coming up, his new job comin' up in Neets Bay, his phone number, challenges of keeping in touch, his bedroom in Ketchikan... still with the same kindergarten art work in the same places that he has left it untouched for this many years. He was going home.

"Fish," said Pat. "I can't wait to eat fish."

I am trying to remember every word we exchanged that night together. I am trying to keep this conversation crystal clear in my memories. I sure loved talking to Pat that night, and it made me happier than I had been in a long, long time.

"That was nice of you, mom," said Lieba, "taking Pat out to dinner and all."
That night I called Natan in Israel in his morning and I said, "Guess what Natan, I'M WITH PAT!!!"

I thank you Pat Doherty and your precious family for the gift of friendship all these many years (over 30). Remember when we used to measure how old our children were in weeks and months?...."Oh he's one month old, 6 weeks old...eighteen months old today." These past weeks we have measured the saddest measure of time...Our lives without the laughter, seriousness, spark, brilliance and friendship of Pat. The word Shloshim means 30 in Hebrew, and these past weeks have marked the Shloshim period of mourning of Pat's passing.

Thank you Ketchikan friends and family for reading this and for helping me remember the memories we all shared with Pat. Thank you Ketchikan for being part of the village with me, raisin' and lovin' these beautifu children.

Here are some Memories with Pat from Linda. Are these ones you remember too?

All of White Cliff School walking downtown to see 101 Dalmations before Xmas vacation, Roger Kukes, King Louie, soapstone, Battle of the Books, Laurie Hale, John Peckham, red eagle shirts, building the staircase outside of Mr. V's room, Mr. V, Yellow Submarine, fish printing, Artist in Residence, Letterland, Ms. Stallings, Chicken Soup with Rice, Ketchikan Killer Whale try-outs @ 7 years old with Natan, swim team, swim meets, home- made paper w/ Evon, Red Sox vs. Yankees, mud soccer, rhubarb chocolate cake, Nail the White, Alien Skyline, 2/3 Kinunen, Larry Eklund, dragonflies, All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten, old friends, good friends, Halloween trick or treating, Haunted Houses, all the greatest White Cliff teachers...

It is hard to be far away from the land and friends that I love. I love you Pat.


Linda Brownstein
Pat's Kindergarten teacher
White Cliff School, 1995
Ketchikan resident 1980-1999
Portland, Oregon


Published August 14, 2009



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Monday - July 06, 2009


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska