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Patterson had love for many games

November 21, 2012

The man with the golden voice and pure love for baseball also had a deep passion for athletics in general, and it stretched beyond the city limits of Fort Dodge.

Jerry Patterson, who built Patterson Field in Fort Dodge nearly 50 years ago, died last Sunday night. His passing stirred up many memories from former friends and players.

Patterson's admiration for baseball and youth athletics in the Fort Dodge community was well-documented. What some may not know about was his passion for basketball in the winter months.

The Central Webster school district benefited from Patterson's knowledge and drive in the 1970's.

"He was a truly passionate coach for kids,'' said 1976 Central Webster graduate Mike Will, who played for Patterson both as a youngster and in high school. "He never argued with the referees, and he'd hardly ever get mad. He should have with us kids because we were all knucklheads, but he never even raised his voice.

"He was a true gentleman and a perfect coach. He acted like everybody should act. ''

Patterson coached the youth basketball programs and the high school team at Central Webster, as well as lining up AAU tournaments and tri-state tournaments.

Most athletes at Central Webster - which included the towns of Lehigh, Harcourt and Burnside - had only one coach from fourth grade to their senior year in high school:?Jerry Patterson.

"We were all thankful. It was a privilege to play for him,'' said 1977 Central Webster graduate Dave Castenson. "He was the only coach that many of us had throughout our (basketball careers).

"He was a great coach and we had tremendous respect for him. Everyone loved him.''

Patterson did a lot of winning at Central Webster, leading the team to the state tournament three consecutive years from 1976-1978. They advanced to the state semifinals in 1976.

Patterson was named the 1976 and 1977 Iowa High School Basketball Coach of the Year.

It wasn't just about the X's and O's with Patterson, though. He helped kids grow and feel good about themselves.

According to Will, Patterson would take the players into church league games, and right after those games, players would put clothes over their uniforms and go to the YMCA and play. Will also played for Patterson in the Tri-state tournament twice.

Patterson was eventually inducted into the Iowa Men's AAU Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Tri-State Basketball Hall of Fame.

Patterson always carried a positive demeanor and had respect for the game.

"He had his own way to get his point across,'' Castenson said. "He was a very good fundamental coach and very patient.

"He didn't just teach us basketball - he taught us life skills. He showed us how to win and how to lose. He was very encouraging. You didn't realize it as much when you were playing, then as you got older, you understood.

"We're all really going to miss him.''


In 1979, Dan Hansen lived in Lehigh. With both parents working, he didn't have a way to get to games.

"Jerry drove from Fort Dodge to pick me up west of Lehigh and drove me clear from Lehigh to a game in Eagle Grove,'' Hansen said. "He just made everybody feel important. He would write up articles for every game, listing statistics, referees names and everything."

Hansen catches himself now and then implementing things he learned from Patterson.

"I taught my girls how to dribble with both hands exactly like he did,'' Hansen said. "At a young age he taught me that and if you can dribble with both hands, you could start.

"He took each kid, based on their ability and size, and made them feel good about themselves -?no matter the skill set.''

It had been a long while since Hansen had seen Patterson, but he bumped into him while running errands one day and was surprised by the response.

"I hadn't seen Jerry for years and ran into him at Shoppers Supply,'' Hansen said. "I said, 'Jerry you probably don't remember me,' and before I?could finish, he looked at me and said, 'you're Danny Hansen.' He hadn't seen me since I was younger, but he remembered me. I told him I just wanted to thank him for everything.

"He took a farm kid and got me started. I learned a lot from him.''


Patterson's perfection through simplicity and unassuming nature will never be forgotten.

"He was the kind of guy that didn't need acknowledgement,'' Castenson said. "He just had the willingness to stay behind the scenes without much recognition.

"I know for myself, it was a blessing to have known him.''

Will echoed the sentiments.

Will was on one of Patterson's state-qualifying teams. He will never forget the type of person Patterson was.

"(Jerry's passing) creates a tremendous void,'' Will said. "One guy could never do it. I should have appreciated him more when I was younger, and I wished my grandson could have played ball there (Patterson Field)."

Hansen agreed.

"I'm afraid that there is not going to be anybody to take on the challenges with the way some things are today,'' Hansen said. "He gave kids an opportunity - a start.

"In today's society people don't take much time with things. He was so dedicated and really gave great detail to everything he did. He made it special for everyone.''

A lasting impression of Patterson left with funeral-goers. As the song "Put me in Coach: I'm Ready to Play" came on, the speakers echoed, "Now playing centerfield: Jerry Patterson.''

"That really put a lump in my throat,'' Castenson said. "I'm sure I?wasn't alone."



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