Lorne Aldon Patterson… Better Known as Gramps
People are influenced by many individuals throughout their lives. Whether these individuals influence your thoughts, actions or behaviour, you take what you learn and apply these lessons where they fit. As an athlete, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “Who has been your biggest role model?” While numerous individuals have had an impact on my life, one of my biggest role models was my grandfather.
Lorne Aldon Patterson, better known as Gramps, was a brilliant man. He was always creating inventions and fixing things to work better. My 1998 Ford Escort ran almost like new in 2008 thanks to his care. He taught us by example to be humble, hardworking, patient, giving, genuine and ACTIVE. He sailed, water-skied, paddled, rowed, walked and played tennis well into his 80’s.
In the summer, at the cottage, my Grammy and Gramps had activity charts for paddling, swimming, diving, sailing and water-skiing; for each new trick which we achieved, we got to colour in a square on the chart. Gramps showed his endless patience while we worked a little longer, (even past dinner being ready), just to help us get that new dive or perfect a water-skiing trick so we would be happy with our day’s effort.
We always knew that Gramps was a humble man and quiet spoken, perhaps because between three kids and a chatty wife, he did not get much air time. Therefore, it was not until his 90’s that stories of everything he had accomplished in his life started to come out. While many stories he told were amazing, the one I related to most, was his qualifying for the Olympics. As a U of T engineering student and member of the intercollegiate gymnastics team, he qualified for the 1940 Olympic Games. His Olympic dream faded as World War II broke out. As a recently graduated mechanical engineer, he was stationed at Federal Wire and Cable in Guelph, did design work for the US navy and air force and became a Commanding Officer in the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps.
Growing up, Gramps was always an advocate of following your dreams. When I said “I want to be an Olympian” much like another kid might say, “I want to be an astronaut,” he responded, “If you want it badly enough and are willing to work hard, believe it is possible.”
The qualification for the 2008 Olympic Games was the 2007 World Championships in Quebec City. My entire family, including Gramps, came to watch. That day was one of the longest in my life. Karen Cockburn and I competed in the first of 8 flights of competitors. We left the gym after competing thinking we had not performed well enough to qualify two spots. The team needs two athletes in the top 8 (of 76 girls) in Prelims to make finals and qualify 2 spots. Later, when we returned to the gym to watch the Canadian boys (including Jason Burnett) compete, we realized that we were still top 8 and had a chance to make finals and gain the 2 Olympic spots. My teammates and I sat in the crowd squeezing each others’ hands as the final flight of girls competed. As soon as we realized that we earned the second spot, we jumped up and started screaming with excitement. I turned around to see that my family were also jumping up and down and shouting, except for Gramps- he was sitting there in his seat with a grin ear to ear and tears rolling down his cheeks.
A couple weeks before leaving for the Beijing Olympics, my family, my teammate Sarah and I spent the weekend at Gramps’ cottage. One evening after dinner, we sat on the verandah chatting late into the evening. We listened to his stories including how he had qualified for the Olympics 68 years before as he won the all around title at the intercollegiate meet. There was no team funding with Olympic uniforms from the Canadian Olympic Committee, as there is today; he was to work his way to the Olympics on the ocean freighters. When World War II began, the Olympics and his dream were cancelled.
Sadly Gramps passed away a few days after that night of reminiscing, leaving behind his legacy. I will always remember the example he set, the stories he shared and the advice he gave. Four years later, I hold onto the best advice he gave me:
“The most important moments in your life are not just that final moment but the cumulative moments leading up to it – on your way, do not forget to stop, enjoy and appreciate the journey.” –Lorne A. Patterson