Mr. Patton served Grace Church in Haddonfield as organist and choir director for 69 years. He was already there when my mom's family moved to the borough in 1929. He was there when my brother and I moved to Haddonfield in 1955. He was still there when I moved back to Haddonfield in 1980. And, though he retired in 1996, he has been there in spirit every time I visit the church.
Mr. Patton was much more than an organist and choir director. He was a teacher. One thing I can say in all honesty is that I cannot sing, but I certainly tried. During my years in the girls choir in the early 1960's, Mr. Patton, with a little patience and a great deal of tolerance, made me feel like I actually could sing. Though my singing is limited mostly to the shower today, I still find myself going through a repetoire of hymns and anthems from those days.
He was also a mathematician. Though I have no idea how he did it, what with directing the boys choir, the girls choir, and the adult choir, Mr. Patton also had a regular job working for an insurance company. I discovered this in the eighth grade. That was the year that all the students had to do a career booklet, and Mr. Patton volunteered to let me interview him about what he did. The thing I remember most was that he explained to me the delicate relationship between math and music.
And he was a friend. I will miss this extraordinary
man who touched many lives in many ways. As for me, when I hear the organ
play and the choir sing at Grace Church, I can see him still. And every
time I belt out "All Glory Laud and Honor," I will always remember to sing
from the diaphram.
Posted 1 February 1998,
June 6, 2007