UPDATE: (11:59 a.m.)

SHERIDAN — Family members of Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, have confirmed that he died Sunday at Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

Patton was 84.

His oldest son Bill Patton said this morning that he died at 3:33 p.m. Sunday at the hospital from pulmonary failure.

Patton had a heart attack in Cheyenne on Feb. 17 while he was there for the most recent legislative session.

His son Jack Patton took him to the hospital where he went into full cardiac arrest. Doctors inserted a stent and his heart was stabilized. However, his lungs became inflamed and he remained hospitalized in Cheyenne until Tuesday when he was stable enough to be moved to Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Jack Patton said.

He was in stable condition until an episode in the middle of the night a few days ago, Patton’s son Bill Patton said. He declined rapidly after that and died on Sunday.

Patton’s wife, Virginia, Bill Patton and daughter-in-law Kathy were by his side.

Patton is survived by his sons Bill, Jack and J.T. and his daughter Jinny (Stratton). His daughter Sue (Fletcher) died in October 2007 of chronic lymphatic leukemia.

Services are pending.

 

Legislative service

Those close to the longtime legislator say Patton was passionate about education and worked to champion best processes throughout his four terms in the state Legislature.

Patton served in the House of Representatives in 1961 and 1965, as state senator from 1967-1971 and as a representative from 2009 until his death.

In this most recent legislative session, Patton was serving as chairman of the House Education Committee. He sponsored House Bill 23, which was passed by the Legislature in this term and repealed the 2014 budgetary footnote that had halted review of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Patton was in the hospital when his bill was passed, but Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, said in mid-March that he was pleased with the passing of the bill when she told him about it and had looked forward to returning to the education committee to begin the review of the standards.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, said one of the most tragic parts of Patton’s death was that he had just become chairman of the education committee and was looking forward to his work in the interim.

“John was a very smart guy and there were very few times that you would have a conversation with him and come away not learning something new,” Burns said. “He had a great institutional memory and a genuine love of government and the philosophy of government.”

Burns said that love showed in every conversation held while he was in the hospital. He always asked about the state of legislation.

“By being a legislator and still actively doing this up to age 84, you don’t do that for the money, you do that for the love,” Burns said. “And the fact that John went 30 years between tenures as a legislator shows that he came back to the thing he loved.”

Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, agreed Patton’s return to service was extraordinary but also credited his service in the state Legislature in the 1960s and 1970s.

“He loved representing the people of Sheridan and doing what’s right,” Kinskey said.

Kinskey noted the mineral severance tax, the mineral trust fund, the Hathaway Scholarship, roads, bridges, infrastructure, the Wildlife Trust Fund and the “rainy day” fund that keeps Wyoming afloat in tough times as hallmarks of that era of the state Legislature.

“John was right there at the very beginning of all of that,” Kinskey said. “He must have missed it to come back at a time when most people are enjoying the rocking chair. He came back and went back into the Legislature and was in there working mightily for what he believed in.”


 

Community service

When Patton was not working on policy, he could be found serving his community and the nation in a variety of ways. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Shriners and the Elks and volunteered with those service organizations.

“No matter what anybody needed, he’d do it,” Jack Patton said about his father. “He was in every organization there is socially. He loved doing that stuff. He never saw a challenge he wouldn’t take.”

Patton was 23 when he moved to Sheridan in the mid-1950s with four kids in tow and “made a go of it,” Jack Patton said.

Patton worked in insurance at Ralston Patton Insurance, later becoming partners with Ralph Levi. He served in the House of Representatives in 1961 and 1965 and earned a term as a state legislator in 1967.

In 1972, after his time in the state Senate, he ran again but lost in the primary, Jack Patton said.

At that time, he went to work for the Citizens Conference on State Legislatures, now the National Conference of State Legislatures, which worked to improve the efficiency and process of state legislatures around the nation.

Making the legislative process transparent, effective and efficient remained a lifelong passion. Patton even worked for a little over a year for President Gerald Ford’s administration from 1975-1977 on matters of efficient political processes.

In 1977, the Pattons moved back to Sheridan where John Patton went into the real estate business with BHJ Realty. He later went into the brokerage business with Dean Witter, eventually merging with Morgan Stanley. He worked in the brokerage business until 2002 before going back into legislative work in 2009.

“He was never afraid of anything. He was willing to try anything and always seemed to be successful,” Jack Patton said.

Sheridan High School history teacher Tyson Emborg worked with Patton often when Patton would come to his classroom to engage students.

“It was fun to know him,” Emborg said. “That was a great joy to me personally to have somebody like that in the community that I could have great intellectual and energetic conversation with one-on-one. He left a huge legacy and I think he would probably be a person to say that it’s the next generation that will have to step up and try to fill those big shoes. Not only in terms of a legislator but also in terms of community mindedness.

“I encourage the community to reflect for a minute what that means about our efforts and our energy and how we want to put others before ourselves,” Emborg added.

Patton and his wife were also avid art collectors and recently donated a large collection of Hans Kleiber artwork to The Brinton Museum.

 

A good father and husband

Apart from his community and political service, Patton was a good father and husband, his sons said.

In almost every conversation anyone had with Patton, it would include anecdotes about his children.

He also never failed to revere and thank his wife, Virginia, for her support and intelligence and patience, often crediting her for his success.

He would tear up when he talked about his children and the death of his daughter Sue.

He would tell stories of Bill Patton’s service in the U.S. Air Force and his and his wife’s visits to see him in Turkey and Indonesia.

When Bill Patton and his wife, Kathy, returned to Sheridan, he would accompany his dad to almost every Sheridan High School football and basketball game.

“He really enjoyed keeping in touch with not just his age cohort but the entire town,” Bill Patton said.

Jack Patton remembered his dad as an outdoorsman who was passionate about hunting and fishing and golf.

Even in his leisure time, though, Patton served others.

Jack Patton said his dad worked to have the three lakes near his cabin in the Tepee Ranch area of the Bighorns stocked with fish so children would be able to catch fish and build memories there. His cabin in the Bighorns was his haven.

“He was the epitome of a pillar of the community,” Bill Patton said.

 

County, Republicans tasked with selecting next legislator

From staff reports

SHERIDAN — As the news of state Rep. John Patton’s passing made its way through the area, Sheridan County and Republican Party officials met to discuss the process of selecting a replacement.

According to state statute, the Sheridan County commissioners maintain responsibility for notifying the state of Patton’s passing and ultimately choosing a representative to complete his term, which runs through 2016.

The board will begin by sending a letter to the Republican State Central Committee to notify it of Patton’s death. This kicks off a 15-day period for House District 29 precinct committeemen and committeewomen to get commissioners three names for consideration.

Ryan Mulholland, the Sheridan County Republican Party chairman, said this list would be created from an open call to HD 29 residents. Anyone expressing interest will go through an interview process.

Once the Republican Party sends its three candidates to the commissioners, the board will have only five days to pick the next Sheridan legislator.

As of Monday morning, Mulholland described the situation as “rapidly evolving” in light of the unexpected news.

“John was an important part of Sheridan and the state and did a lot as a servant for this community,” he said. “This is and will continue to be a tough process.”

 

(9:08 a.m.)

SHERIDAN — Family members of Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, have confirmed that he died Sunday at Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

Patton was 84.

His oldest son Bill Patton said this morning that he died at 3:33 p.m. Sunday at the hospital from pulmonary failure.

Patton had a heart attack in Cheyenne on Feb. 17 while he was down there for the most recent Legislative session.

His son Jack Patton took him to the hospital where he went into full cardiac arrest. Doctors inserted a stent and his heart was stabilized. However, his lungs became inflamed and he remained hospitalized in Cheyenne until Tuesday when he was stable enough to be moved to Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Jack Patton said.

He was in stable condition until an episode in the middle of the night a few days ago, Bill Patton said. He declined rapidly after that and died on Sunday.

Patton’s wife Virginia, Bill Patton and his wife Kathy were by his side.

Patton is survived by his sons Bill, Jack and J.T. and his daughter Jinny. His daughter Sue died in October 2007 of chronic lymphatic leukemia.

Service arrangements have not yet been made.

“He was the epitome of a pillar of the community,” Bill Patton said. “Wyoming has not had a better friend of education in its recent history.”

Patton was passionate about education and worked to champion best processes throughout his four terms in the state legislature. Patton served in the House of Representatives in 1961 and 1965, as state senator from 1967-1971 and as a representative from 2009 until his death.

When Patton was not working on policy, he could be found serving his community in a variety of ways. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Shriners and the Elks and volunteered in many ways with those service organizations.

He was a regular visitor to area schools to discuss legislative policies and procedures and hardly ever missed a Sheridan High School basketball or football game, championing the lives of children and students in and out of Congress.

“No matter what anybody needed, he’d do it,” Jack Patton said about his father.