Patricia Wilbur - 1935 to 2012 - A Remenbrance
Posted on June 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm
Notes from the Old Noank Jail
Pat Wilbur, long-time resident of Noank, quietly passed away at home on May 22nd, surrounded by her three sons and daughter, following a two year battle with cancer. Her obituary describes a large remaining family including her direct offspring, their spouses, seven grandchildren, one niece, a brother and his spouse. Her Memorial Service on June 2nd overflowed the normal seating capacity of the Noank Baptist Church, a visible testimony to how many lives this gentle lady had touched.
There were some tears and much laughter during that service. Raised on Long Island, Pat visited Noank in 1959 just for the summer as part of her Master's degree program in Marine Biology. She met a colorful, well known wooden boat builder and commercial ship's captain named Jack Wilbur, a man of strong character...but no match for Pat! Beneath her unassuming and imperturbable exterior, she had a resolve of steel. Theirs was a whirlwind courtship during that summer, with a marriage on August 22nd, thus redefining Pat's "short visit" to Noank. For their honeymoon, Jack took her sword fishing off Block Island, where they became completely drenched during a sudden storm, finally found safe harbor at about 4 AM... and their first son was born nine months later!
Like many Noank women, whose husbands made their living at sea for months at a time, Pat raised their children as a single parent within a strong circle of friends. She was proud of Jack's license to captain "Any Vessel of any Size on any Ocean" (possibly the last to obtain it), and of their children's many accomplishments, but had no (discernable) self-pride...except, perhaps, in her prowess at sword fishing. Jack, like many of those who followed the sea, found it difficult,upon returning to shore, to move comfortably between the two worlds. Eventually, Pat found that family life went more smoothly if Jack simply joined the family for dinner each night. Sadly, Jack passed away in January 1990, perhaps as he would have wished, suffering a heart attack while working on one of his beloved boats...after 30 years of marriage.
Pat treasured her participation in the Noank Baptist Church community, which began soon after her arrival here and deepened with her years in the Choir, on the boards of the Nursery School, Group Homes, Mystic River Homes, as Treasurer of the Mystic Choir Festival, as an active Peace Advocate, while also participating in the Noank Historical Society and Mystic Calligraphers Guild. Fifteen years working in Ships Plans at the Mystic Seaport also gave her great pleasure and many people worldwide came to rely upon her expertise. In short, whatever service or help was needed, Pat would quietly provide,
What I remember best about Pat was her dry sense of humor and unflappable demeanor. She came with us on a long family trip to Maine one summer, in a small 4-door sedan that resembled something out of a clown circus act, with myself (I am large), my wife, our young daughter and a friend, Pat, and our DOG all jammed in plus a full weeks luggage stuffed into the trunk (and our laps). I wondered how Pat took the trip so calmly but now, having heard how she spent her honeymoon, I understand...she had been through so much worse!
Pat did get her revenge upon us, however, by suggesting we play some music tapes she'd brought along, as sung by chantey man /folk singer Gordon Bok and friends, including the very singable, addictive "Waltzing with Bears". We played the tapes several times...both going up AND coming back from Maine. Pat "encouraged" the kids to sing along, which of course they did with great noise and delight, until even the dog joined in. Thus, it was a long trip in a small car filled with singing, dog-breath, and laughter.
We are among the many who will greatly miss Pat Wilbur.