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Jack Patten remembered for volunteer work

Jack Patten was a tireless volunteer for St. John Ambulance and other organizations in Nanaimo. Patten died from cancer on Saturday. - News Bulletin file
Jack Patten was a tireless volunteer for St. John Ambulance and other organizations in Nanaimo. Patten died from cancer on Saturday.
— image credit: News Bulletin file

A longtime Nanaimo resident, well-known in the community for his volunteerism, has died.

Jack Patten, a long-serving member of the St. John Ambulance Society, both at the local and provincial levels, an aide-de-camp for the lieutenant-governor for the past 23 years, a retired captain with the Canadian Scottish Regiment and First World War historian, died Saturday at age 75 after a battle with esophageal cancer.

“The whole community is really going to miss him,” said friend Doug Slowski, a retired lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve and a member of the St. John Ambulance Society. “He was just an all-around, wonderful community supporter and he loved people and he loved life. The community has lost a great leader.”

Born in Southampton, England, in 1937, Patten joined St. John Ambulance at age seven.

He came to Canada in 1956, and after returning to England to marry his high school sweetheart, settled in Nanaimo and started up Bastion Trophies.

Patten was involved with the Nanaimo St. John Ambulance Society chapter and served as Vancouver Island area commissioner for many years before becoming a provincial administrative officer last year.

Patten helped raise $1.2 million for the St. John Ambulance building on Labieux Road and became a Commander of the Order of St. John in 2009.

Founder of the Pacific Coast Branch of the Western Front Association, an organization dedicated to preserving interest in the First World War, Patten led dozens of non-profit tours overseas to see the famous battlegrounds – he even took a couple of former lieutenant-governors, who he met while serving as aide-de-camp, a volunteer position for which he was recently awarded a commendation from outgoing Lt.-Gov. Stephen Point.

Slowski met Patten when he moved to Nanaimo in 1989. Their paths first crossed because Slowski was commanding officer of the local air cadets and Patten was involved with army and navy cadets, as well as St. John Ambulance cadets.

Patten taught outdoor survival to air cadets and because he was an excellent speaker, thanks in part to his involvement in Toastmasters, Slowski also recruited him to be the master of ceremonies at several air cadet events.

Slowski said there wasn’t much going on in the community that Patten wasn’t part of.

Merv Unger, president of the local St. John Ambulance branch, said Patten was a highly regarded member of the society, both locally and provincially, and his dedication to the organization was well known across the Island.

“The community has lost a very strong pillar who dedicated himself to Nanaimo over the years and to Vancouver Island,” he said. “He was the type of person you treasured to have as a friend.”

Friend Jules Xavier, who got to know Patten when his sister worked with him at Sharman Mobile Home Park, said he mentored many local children and was a fixture at local events as a St. John Ambulance volunteer.

“He was likeable right away,” he said. “He had a personality that drew people to him.”

Patten is survived by his wife, two children and multiple grandchildren.

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