Jasper Treasure: Roy Patterson

·5 min read

Roy Patterson, a well known character who lived in Jasper for 28 years, passed away on Oct. 29 in Westlock, Alberta.

Patterson had a huge impact on the town. He’s been called stubborn, determined, a man with a good sense of humour and a big personality. The underlying thread is that Patterson suffered a brain injury in 1980 when he was a ski instructor at Lake Louise. It impaired his ability to walk and speak.

Leigh Budgell and her husband Ralph, became good friends with Patterson over the years. It was amazing, she said, that Patterson somehow conveyed, even with his impairments, to medical staff in 1980 that he was ready to move ahead. He learned to walk and talk, and dress and feed himself.

Patterson ended up moving to Jasper a few years later into his own apartment. He had regained basic life skills, but, Budgell pointed out, changes in his behaviour didn’t always flow with people.

“His speech wasn’t all that great,” she said. “And he had no filter.”

Patterson was adamant about wearing helmets and would admonish people who weren’t wearing one.

He’d do the same with those who smoked.

“If he saw someone smoking, he’d tell them to quit,” Budgell said. “If he had something to say, he would say it.”

Patterson kept active. He got a job at Marmot Basin clearing tables and trays, but, Budgell said, “His ability to strike up a conversation and flirt with the girls left him little time to do any work, so it was a short stint.”

With help from Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), Patterson did odd jobs for people around town.

“He made friends along the way,” Budgell said.

Such assistance evolved into care from Community Outreach Services (COS).

Budgell said, “He wouldn’t dare go out without clothing he thought was a very cool outfit, right down to having 20 helmets that matched whatever he was wearing.”

She said Patterson was a regular customer at the thrift shop and with help from friends, decorated his apartment with items he had chosen.

Patterson had a way of getting what he wanted.

Budgell said folks helped him with all kinds of stuff.

“Roy would do the ear tug thing that Carol Burnett used to do at the end of each show for her mother,” she said.

Her cousin, Robert Sedlack, a writer, spent a few winters in Jasper and came to know Patterson very well.

One November he arrived with a huge poster of Carol Burnett strapped to the top of his truck for Patterson, signed by Burnett when he lived in LA.

Budgell said Sedlack wrote a book with the main character based on Patterson’s personality and circumstances.

“It’s a very good read,” she said.

Patterson’s life changed again when he suffered a head injury at Marmot Basin in early 2010.

After two weeks in hospital in Edmonton, he was transferred to the hospital in Jasper to be closer to friends and family. Budgell said Patterson had become less stable on his feet and his ability to speak decreased.

Patterson left Jasper in about 2015 to move into Westlock Continuing Care, which Budgell said, is “an awesome place”. That’s where he passed away.

Budgell and her husband treasure their friendship with Patterson.

“I think he grew people’s acceptance, tolerance, understanding, of brain injury and of people who are different,” she said. “I know he did for me.”

Paul Schmidt, Jasper Victim Services coordinator, said in an email he knew Patterson for a long time, and added he tried “to get me to wear a helmet for years”.

“I worked with him for a couple of years,” he said, “and our love of skiing made for an easy bond between us. I am sure we will do a ‘Run for Roy’ at some point.”

Schmidt has a favourite picture of Patterson, “the one of him in full ski gear, skis and all, on the table, in his tuck, over a turkey dinner, and all the settings”.

“I liked Roy, and wanted him to be doing well,” Schmidt said. “He had some quirks that likely came along with his brain injury, (and) certainly some down moments, but he also knew how to make people smile, and he was enthusiastic about life.”

Patrick Mooney, a COS outreach worker who worked with Patterson for about 10 years, has fond memories of him, too.

“Roy would be there most days. It was his go-to place,” Mooney said. He saw a deep friendship develop between Patterson and Cliff Brown, a born and raised Jasperite who had a brain injury too.

“Both were skiers,” Mooney said, and added if you knew both of them you would see how they looked at life. “

Cliff was positive, Roy was a bit negative,” he said.

“They had a way of communicating in their own way. It was beautiful to watch how they learned from each other, how they respected each other.”

Each was aware of their brain injury and the circumstances around it, Mooney said.

“I learned so much about myself watching these two,” Mooney said. “It taught me patience, compassion, love in raw form. Roy had a deep, deep intuition about people. He could walk through a door and feel what mood they were in. Both were intuitive.”

They brought out the best in each other, Mooney said.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh