Her name was Pat Stracner

We friended few people during our short stay in Hawaiʻi, and one was Pat.

Yesterday we got the sad news that Pat had passed away on Friday. She would have been 97 in September. Her health had deteriorated in the last few years and she likely succumbed to complications from a procedure combined with old age, and — possibly — just being tired of making the effort.

Not that she wasn’t a fighter.

We first met Pat as she sat outside of the condominium where we lived for the first 21 months of our Hawaiʻi sojourn. Suffering from macular degeneration, she was limited in what she could do, but loved to sit outside. She would say I was handsome — which confirmed that she couldn’t see all that well — and that Melisa was beautiful — which made me think her sight was probably better than she let on.

We would chat with her on our way in or out, and often one of us would go down to sit with her when we noticed she was out there.

The lady lived an interesting life, so talking to her was never boring.

Born in Sioux City, IA, Pat left for California right after graduating from high school. The impression we got that it was almost on the same day, and she left to go live with her mother. If our memories serve us, it was near Huntington Beach. 

Pat had a lovely singing voice and even tried out at the Hollywood studios but ultimately she ended up doing other stuff, like having two sons — who sadly preceded her — and a daughter, Jan, whom Pat lived with when we met her.

Side note: Eventually, Jan, Pat’s daughter, and her partner, Rita, also became good friends and we shared many a meal and late-night discussion where I was tasked with mansplaining stuff to them. These were talking marathons lasting into the single-digit hours of the night. I like to think I made some headway, but you know how women are . . . er . . . I mean, but stubbornness ran strong in all of us.

We learned of Pat’s experiences during the Depression, World War II, and we learned of her various jobs (she worked at a drive-in restaurant, sold real estate, was owner-operator of an art shop for her paintings and ceramics, to name a few), about her two marriages, and about raising three kids practically on her own.

We also learned about her meeting famous actors and actresses at a time when celebrities were more prone to walk among us mere mortals.  

We listened to her past joys, sorrows for the loss of her brothers, sisters, and sons, and love for her kids, grandkid, and two great-grandkids.

Because Pat needed supervision and care, Pat and Rita were limited in what they could do, so we started taking Pat out for meals and long drives whenever they needed to run errands. Make no mistake; it wasn’t a chore, and it wasn’t just when Jan and Rita needed to do something.

Melisa and I would take Pat out for fish-and-chips, gelato, hamburgers, and coffee both to spend time with her and to provide some variety from sitting at home, and to hear about her life.

In the last few months that we were there, we began to notice more pronounced short-term memory losses. While it was never a burden on us, we admired the loving care, patience, and dedication of both Jan and Rita during the times when Pat would become frustrated with her lapses. Anyone dealing with loved ones in similar situations knows about these difficulties.

When — due to personal circumstances — the decision to leave Hawaiʻi became inevitable, one of the most difficult things was telling Pat, Jan, and Rita that we were leaving. We promised Pat we’d be there for her 100th birthday (she was 94 at the time) and we meant it. Sadly, it’s not to be.

Godspeed, Pat. You are missed.

Note: if the family will publish an obituary, I’ll link it here. What I’ve written is from memory, and while I think I get everything right, I know I left out much about her life and family.