Submitted by Don Doman.
Pat Flynn passed away on Saturday, July 7th. Most people will know Pat for her work raising money for cancer research with Relay for Life. We knew her as a friend.
Today you can find Relay For Life in 5,000 communities in the United States and in 29 foreign countries with 6.5 million participants. It all started right here. Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt began with a 24-hour run/walk in 1985, where friends, patients and doctors came to keep him company. He ran and walked more than 83.6 miles and raised $27,000 through pledges. Pat Flynn came down early on the morning he was near the end of the event and called the Tacoma News Tribune to come take a picture of a remarkable endurance race that she knew could become an important Tacoma event.
The Relay event has raised over $6.5 billion since its inception for research, education, patient services and advocacy. “Gordy” Klatt is the Father of Relay and Pat Flynn is reverently referred to as the Mother of Relay.
Pat’s son Mark shared this note in January: “For years, my mom has been unable to travel on her own . . . mostly because of her kidney failure and the weight of her dialysis machine that she uses every night for nine hours.
The American Cancer Society needed her at national meetings to share her passion for Relay—especially to new folks—so they have paid my transportation costs to accompany her. I play the role of “mother hen’ making sure Pat gets wheelchaired through airports. I’m in charge of talking airlines into putting her fragile machine in a closet at the front of the plane, so we can take it off when we land. It cannot go in the luggage compartment. If we’re in a large hotel, the ACS rents a scooter for her. I try the scooter out and then give her a brief review of the rabbit/turtle speed control dial. After that she takes off and I can hardly keep up with her.
Although I know it’s a tiring effort for her to make these trips, I know how much pleasure she derives in sharing Relay. It’s sometimes a little overwhelming when I hear the people scream and honor her with standing ovations before and after she speaks. I’m awestruck when I watch the devoted global Relayers paying homage to Dr. Klatt and my mom for getting this phenomenal event started 34 years ago. I am just so proud of her, but then I always have been.”
For the past few years my wife Peggy and I have had the joy of breaking bread with Pat on most Friday evenings. When I say breaking bread I mean braking bread. We call our dinner mates FandFers or Friends and Friday. We take turns hosting the potluck. Pat would bring a wheel of crusty bread for each meal she could attend. Most gatherings involved laughter, hugs, sometimes serious discussions, and always dessert.
One evening I was sitting next to Pat and another friend, Vickie, was sitting to her left. I think Vickie had a plate of cookies. I wanted one to go with my ice cream and chocolate syrup, so I asked her to just toss me one. She fired it at me and I juggled my spoon and the bowl as I grabbed at the cookie. I wound up with chocolate sauce on my pants and on the floor. The next morning I had an email from Pat, “There’s no way you could have caught that cookie!!!!” Pat must have worried about my feelings all night long. That was Pat.
A few years ago Peg took two of our granddaughters to Relay for Life at the new Mount Tahoma High School. It was a special evening. Peg bought T-shirts and a caldelaria in remembrance of Rita, her mother, and then she and Bella and Sophia walked the track before being introduced to Pat.
My final Pat moment was last week when my friends Donn and Deb Irwin returned some DVD movies we had loaned Pat. There was also an envelope. Peg and I have been working on a project involving fully-functional microscopes that a friend traveled to Asia to give away a hundred to students there. Dennis Flannigan, whose brother Randy worked with Pat on Relay for Life, organized a small fundraiser at Tacoma Szechuan. Each person attending was given a $15 gift certificate for a meal at the restaurant. Pat loved reading my restaurant reviews in the Suburban Times. She sent her certificate to us with the DVDs. Pat was always thinking of others. We will miss her . . . particularly on Friday evenings.