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Life Story / Obituary
Tom was born November 3, 1933 in Jackson Michigan to Aloysius and Charlotte [Blackman] Patton. Growing up near the depot Tom was fascinated with trains from an early age. Once he had his own bicycle he made daily trips to the train depot just to watch them and his love of trains soon became a lifelong passion. In the late 40's the family moved to a farm outside Napoleon MI. Tom graduated from the Napoleon Rural Agricultural High School in 1951 and attended Jackson Community College. During the Korean War Tom honorably served in the Michigan National Guard with artillery battalion.
Like many young men Tom wanted a motorcycle. However his parents, concerned motorcycles were dangerous, convinced him to take flying lessons instead. With a pilots license and 1/3 interest in a Piper Cub, Tom and his best friend Keith spent may hours flying together. He would later tells stories of stalling the plane to make it spin and landing in a bean field to visit friends.
On a blind date to see the Boston Pop's, Tom met Anita Gatti and it was love at first sight. Tom and Anita were happily married on June 28, 1958 before a congregation of family and friends at St. Sebastian Church in Dearborn, Michigan.
Tom began his career as a Design Engineer working for Clark Equipment and Aeroquip before joining his father as an insurance agent at the Prudential Insurance Company. Retiring after 33 years Tom's honesty and integrity lead many clients to call for insurance advice well after his retirement.
Tom always kept busy and was never one to be idle. His interest in trains continued as he built an HO layout of his own. As a member of the Kalamazoo Model Railroad Club, Tom often helped friends with repairs and painting of their model locomotives. In the early 70's he discovered the live steam hobby. Teaching himself to be a machinist, Tom went on to build two 1/8 scale steam locomotives, six freight cars and a caboose. The sound of classical or instrumental music played in the background as he worked on his projects. He was a precise, neat and well organized workman. His details were impeccable. Tom was thrilled to have passed his love for trains on to his son, Pat who took a big interest in the hobby.
Accumulating a vast knowledge of locomotives and railroad history, Tom was a mentor to other locomotive builders. He wrote many articles on locomotive construction for Live Steam, and Modetec magazines. His hobby afforded Tom the privilege of making many great friends and places to travel.
A devoted family man, Tom Patton was a blessing to know and love. He lived with honor and as a man of his word. Gone yet never to be forgotten, Tom will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.
Thomas P. Patton, age 86, of Kalamazoo, died on Sunday, November 1, 2020. Tom was preceded in death by a sister, Judith Vrtis and by three brothers-in-law: James Pierce, Herbert Johnson and Chuck Vrtis. Surviving are his wife of 62 years, Anita Patton; four children: Michael Patton, Patrick Patton, Christopher (Laura) Patton VanBuskirk and Mary (Joe) Contreras; three grandchildren: Stuart, Alex and Luke Patton VanBusKirk; two sisters: Shirley Pierce and Janice Johnson; many nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place and services will take place at a later date. Please visit Tom’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com , where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimer's Association and Alamo Nursing Home. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.