Press "Enter" to skip to content


James “Jim” Ansley Patten of North, passed away on June 4, 2019, shortly before his ninetieth birthday at Heron Cove, Gloucester, after a hard-fought battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

Also known as “Curly” in childhood, and later as “Big Daddy” by his daughters, Jim was born in Washington, D.C., at Columbia Hospital for Women on June 19, 1929 to Alva Katherine Ansley Patten and Dr. William Francis Patten. He was a fourth generation Washingtonian, growing up in D.C. when it was still a “sleepy southern town,” where children traveled alone in relative safety to explore the city’s museums, zoo, and parks. Jim’s grandmother owned a souvenir shop on Pennsylvania Avenue and his mother was later married to Donald Dawson, special assistant to President Harry Truman. As a result, Jim and his family had the opportunity to meet, work, and live with many of the famous and infamous on the national scene; a great raconteur, he had fascinating and often humorous tales to tell of these associations. Jim attended Weightman Grammar School and graduated in 1947 from Western High School. He earned a B.S. in chemistry and a B.S. in geology from American University in 1952. While in university, he was a record-making member of its swim team and continued to follow that passion through the Masters swim program for many years thereafter. After graduation, he worked at the U.S. Geological Survey, the Smithsonian Institution, as a bench chemist at the National Cancer Institute of NIH, and, lastly, at his favorite job as a patent examiner in the U.S. Patent Office where his work focused on pharmaceutical chemistry.

Jim has been described by his daughter as “always a driver, never a passenger if he could help it!” Being a genuinely independent and critical thinker, he skipped the rules he found illogical. He was a collector of art, a lover of music (the livelier the better), and a skilled whistler. A self-taught boat builder, he constructed a trimaran because he wanted to learn to sail. His masterpiece was a Marshall 22 catboat. He was smart and witty, a master of wordsmanship, a prankster, procrastinator, and an old-fashioned gentleman. After they removed a pituitary tumor, he was told he had maybe 20 years to live. He squeaked out another 45 instead, although he aspired to surpass his mother’s lifespan of 100 years. We wish he had.

Jim was predeceased by his parents; a brother, attorney William F. Patten Jr., and sisters, Marjorie LeClair Powers and Ridie LeClair Arthur. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Dr. Kaye Dyar, and his children’s mothers, Anne Ellen Patten and Mary Bonner; daughters, Michal Patten (Waldo Kidd) of Ivins, Utah, and Dr. Elizabeth Patten (Paul Bryant) of Santa Barbara, California; son, Dr. James Patten (Jen Lusker) and seven-month-old grandson, River Patten, all of Brooklyn, New York, and a sister, attorney Diana Dawson (Randolph Coyner) of Sarasota, Florida. He is also survived by seven nephews, and a special niece, Kathleen Patten of Manassas, Virginia.

A memorial service will be held in a few weeks when the family will gather together at his home. He will be buried in the Dyar plot at the Greenview Cemetery in Greensboro, Georgia.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Zullo and Dr. Shivers and each and every member of the staff at Heron Cove I for their compassionate care of him; we will be forever grateful.