- Steve Patterson
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Steve Patterson, of Middlesex, on November 6, 2023. Steve died peacefully, with his wife, Sally, by his side. He was 76 years old.
Steve’s life was a beacon of goodness, kindness and bravery to all who loved him. He possessed a keen intelligence, a wry sense of humor, and an understanding heart. If you were lucky enough to be in the light of Steve’s love, you were well cared for, indeed.
Born on October 5, 1947, to Alice and Harold Patterson of Middlesex, Steve was a lifelong Vermonter, a product of deep, proud Irish roots on his father’s side in Middlesex, and the strong resiliency of his French-Canadian grandparents — who were early 20th-Century immigrants to Barre’s granite industry jobs — on his mother’s side.
Steve’s love for his home state knew no bounds. Since his Middlesex boyhood, his passion for the traditions of fly-fishing, and, later, deer hunting brought him great joy throughout his life. Steve loved being quiet and observant in the outdoors. The natural environment was his religion.
Of paramount importance in his life, though, was family. Steve was fiercely committed to and protective of his family all his life. Honoring his mother, Alice, and stepfather, Howard Walbridge, as they lived together into old age was his privilege and his life commitment as a loving and dependable son. Being a younger brother to his beloved sister Sally gave him a special sense of security throughout their upbringing together by a strong single mother, especially after their father Harold’s and baby sister Linda’s premature deaths when Steve was five years old.
Steve discovered the joys of fatherhood after marrying his first wife and lifelong friend, Brenda Bean. Through their years of marriage and beyond their parting, they co-parented beloved daughter, Sarah Patterson, together. Steve’s pride in Sarah and her life accomplishments over the years never waned.
Steve took great pride in his 33 years of sobriety, beginning in 1992. At that time, Steve began to live his life anew with confidence, a clear mind and a more open heart. Two years after this fresh start, he met coworker, Sally Cavanagh. Steve and Sally’s long friendship deepened into love, and they married in 2005, beginning the longest, most joyful and fulfilling partnership and family chapter in his life.
Steve’s long career was primarily a mix of journalism, Democratic politics and Vermont State government. While straight out of Montpelier High School, Steve obtained a journalism degree from Becker College in Massachusetts and was editor of the college literary magazine while there. He then spent six years as a Rutland Herald and Times-Argus news reporter, covering government at the local and then at the state level as a member of the Vermont Press Bureau. He also worked for a time as a correspondent for the Boston Globe.
During a period of self-employment, Steve directed a state environmental awareness project and worked in public relations for governor Tom Salmon’s 1974 re-election campaign. Entering state government for a time, he brought his media affairs expertise to his work as consumer affairs chief for the Vermont Department of Banking & Insurance. While on leave from state government, Steve managed Jim Guest’s successful 1976 Vermont secretary of state campaign. He returned to state government for the next several years as a special assistant attorney general and managed press relations for Vermont attorney general Jerome Diamond’s office.
Steve left state government for a period of years and worked in the private sector in media and public relations management positions for International Coins & Currency, Vermont Castings and the Barre Granite Association.
In 1987, Steve found his way back to what became his longest period of employment in state government at the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Over a period of 16 years, Steve’s responsibility steadily increased within the state agency, and he had oversight of economic development, housing and community affairs, tourism and marketing, historic preservation, and Vermont Life Magazine. He went from being responsible for all aspects of public and media relations to a post as executive director of the Vermont Economic Progress Council, to deputy secretary and, eventually, to secretary of the agency during the administration of governor Howard Dean.
In 2003, Steve was hired as executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA), a post he excelled in for the last 10 years of his career. It was in this position that Steve found perhaps his greatest career fulfillment, nimbly weaving together all his many contacts made over his years in media, politics, and government to assemble an impressive array of state and federal planning and development resources on behalf of Vermont’s most rural region — the Northeast Kingdom. He immersed himself in the region he so loved and is widely credited with having been the driving force behind the siting of the statewide Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick — his proudest professional achievement.
At the end of his life, Steve had no doubt that his proudest personal achievement was the beloved home he and Sally made on property that had been in her family since 1960, across the brook from the one-room schoolhouse where Steve attended school in his earliest years. Steve always felt he truly had come home, and, together, he and Sally created a setting of beauty and comfort, where family and friends could join them over the years in sharing lots of laughter and creating fond memories. For those closest to him, he was always there to lend a non-judgmental ear, a helping hand, a word of encouragement, a heartfelt shared laugh or tear. Steve loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he was so good at it!
Steve and Sally felt fortunate and blessed that he was able to come home for over a month before he was readmitted to the hospital for the final time. He took great pleasure in celebrating his 76th birthday at home during this time — outdoors on a warm, brilliant Vermont fall day, with many family members and friends in attendance.
Perhaps Steve’s greatest gift to those who loved him was his lived example as an unpretentious, kindhearted common man. Steve’s life was one of treating others the way he would want to be treated. This honesty and integrity endeared him to, and earned him the trust and respect of, countless people from all walks of life.
Steve was predeceased by his father, Harold Patterson; his mother, Alice Patterson Walbridge; stepfather, Howard Walbridge; sisters, Sally Howard and Linda Patterson; and stepbrother, Robin Walbridge.
He leaves behind his wife, Sally Cavanagh Patterson; his daughter, Sarah Patterson; stepchildren, Katy Stohlberg and Matthew Stohlberg, and Matthew’s wife, Sarah Shimizu. He also leaves behind the one occupying a special place in his heart always — grandchild Baker Beauchamp, who evoked in Steve during his last 15 years some of the tenderest emotions he had discovered in life as a proud and protective grandfather.
In addition, Steve is survived by his sister Sally’s husband of many years, Greg Howard; Sally and Greg’s children, Chris and Nancy, and their families; and Greg’s wife, Susan. Wife Sally’s four Cavanagh sisters and their husbands, children and grandchildren also survive: Susan Martello, Alice and John Spinello, Amy Cavanagh and Ted Grossman, and Judy and Ben Whitney. Steve’s first wife, Brenda Bean, survives, as does his wife of several years in the late 1980s, Mary Whitcomb, and her children, Dale and Kevin. Steve leaves behind many beloved cousins and friends. He will be forever loved and missed.
There are many family members and friends who provided help and support during Steve’s long illness, and deep gratitude is offered here. His family also wishes to thank the skilled and dedicated staff at the University of Vermont McClure Miller Respite House in Colchester who provided comfort and compassionate care to Steve in his final days.
A celebration of Steve’s life will be held on Saturday, November 25, 2023, at 2 p.m. at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, located at 130 Main St., with a reception immediately following.