Crowds gather to say goodbye to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published August 7, 2019

 4. Johnnie Stringfield, of Knoxville Tennessee, who ran a car wash in Waterford where he said L. Brooks Patterson got his car washed once a week, pays his respects during the public viewing held Aug. 6.

4. Johnnie Stringfield, of Knoxville Tennessee, who ran a car wash in Waterford where he said L. Brooks Patterson got his car washed once a week, pays his respects during the public viewing held Aug. 6.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Hundreds waited in line to say their final goodbyes to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson in the conference center of the building bearing his name in Waterford Aug. 6. 

Patterson, 80, died Aug. 3. He announced that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March. 

Patterson is survived by his son Dr. Dayne (Heather) Rogers, of Davisburg; daughters Mary Margaret (Gary) Warner, of Clarkston, and Shawn Sutherland, of Waterford; daughter-in-law Jessie (Charlie) Damavoletes, of Waterford; former wife Kathy (Bruce) Patterson, of Clarkston; 11 grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. His son Brooks “Brooksie” Stuart Patterson preceded him in death in a snowmobile accident in 2007. Patterson was also predeceased by his twin brother, Stephen, sister Harriett Hayden and nephew Timothy Hayden, all of whom died of cancer.

Mourners filed past his casket, draped with the American flag, as Oakland County color guard stood guard, changing every 15 minutes. 

“They all have humorous stories,” said daughter Mary Margaret Warner of those who came to pay their respects. “They say, ‘He was the best person I ever worked for.’” 

“He was larger than life,” said  son Dr. Dayne Rogers. “There’s a hole that will never be filled.” 

When asked how her father balanced home life with a demanding schedule, Warner replied, “I don’t have a memory without him.” 

“He was so full of energy,” Rogers said. “When he was home, he was present.” 

Addressing Patterson’s sometimes controversial comments — including criticism of the city of Detroit, and more recently, a 2016 legal challenge to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Oakland County — Rogers said, “he chose his words carefully.” 

When asked how her father coped with his son Brooksie’s death and the car accident of 2012 that left Patterson disabled from his injuries, Warner said, “his family kept him going.” 

“He was so courageous,” she said. “He wanted to finish his term.” 

Patterson’s seventh term would have ended in December 2020. 

Warner said her father received chemotherapy for his cancer treatment until nearly the end of his life, which weakened him, but he refused to stop them. 

She said the family “struggled with that,” not making him halt the painful treatments. 

“It was his fight,” Rogers said. “You don’t tell Brooks Patterson how to fight.” 

William Mullan, Oakland County’s media and communications officer, said Patterson had last been in the office two to three weeks ago and spoke to his deputies and executives every day. “He was engaged to the end,” Mullan said. 

Rogers noted that her father never got his retirement party. “So we will send him off this way.” 

Through tears, Warner said, “He (her father) deserves this — the flags half mast, the police. He gave so much.” 

She said they would joke with her father that he had five kids, the fifth being Oakland County.

A tribute is planned for 2 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Oakland County International Airport, 6500 Highland Road in Waterford, to honor Patterson with a missing man formation flyover during the OCIA Open House and Air Show.

Visitation that is open to the public will be held 3-8 p.m. Aug. 14 and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 15 at Woodside Bible Church’s Troy campus, 6600 Rochester Road, between Square Lake Road and South Boulevard. 

A burial with full military honors will be private. 

Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki contributed to this report.