John Patton and I have been friends for 60 years, a friendship fashioned through our mutual love of sports.
We were teammates on the 1963 Wilmington Hurricane baseball team together, and in later years we do what old friends do — we take each other back to when we were just kids and talk about how quickly time flies.
We also enjoy talking about when John worked for his dad, J.B. Patton, at Patton Motors in their auto dealership that sat where Kentucky Fried Chicken is now located. It was during these formative years John learned hard work from his dad, and how hard work, not luck, leads to success.
“I have personally sold more cars than anyone in Clinton County over the past 53 years,” John was quoted in a recent Wilmington News Journal article.
John’s success in sports and business was not luck. Along with dedication, his dad and mom, J.B. and Mary Jean, were good people who instilled a strong work ethic in both him and his sister, Pam Thompson, and John passed on the same passion to his children, Brent, Chris, and Scott.
He has been married to his wife Vickie for 50 years and bought the old Hare farm hard by Port William some years ago where they live peacefully on the prime farmland.
To say only John Patton works hard is to avoid a deeper issue. John gives 100 percent in everything he does, which brings us back to sports and his recent, well-deserved selection into the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame, where he soon will be joining the elite of Clinton County athletes.
John always played every contest with all his heart and never took any game for granted. His athletic accomplishments are staggering. He earned nine varsity letters at Wilmington High School, three in baseball, two in football, two in basketball, one in golf, one in track & field, and was a five-time first-team All-SCOL athlete in four sports (football, basketball, track/field, baseball). He was captain of the All-SCOL offensive team as top vote-getter in football in 1963 and was also voted All-Ohio football the same year.
I remember when John would dive for the basketball, and sprint toward the fumble when others had given up. He wore out the knees of his uniforms, but fortunately for Wilmington fans, the school produced new uniforms for him every week.
John had an interesting quote in the same News Journal article, “Who knows, if I stayed in the country, I might have played the tuba,” he quipped.
I don’t know if John is musical or not, but I do know if he chose to play the tuba, he would have been the hardest-working tuba player you ever saw without the knee pads. He no doubt would have put Roger Bobo to shame.
Work and sports have been a big part of John’s life, but I remember when his family moved to a large brick house on Locust Street a few houses from the old Junior High School, or known more recently as Rodger O. Borror Middle School.
During my junior high years, it wasn’t unusual to walk to John’s house at noon and enjoy lunch that Mrs. Patton cooked for us almost every day of the school year. This wasn’t a fast-food lunch either; she would fix homemade cubed steak, gravy, fried potatoes, and sometimes have strawberry ice cream for dessert.
When the wind was exactly right, I was convinced I could smell lunch cooking from my study hall window on the third floor of the school.
John was in high school and was never able to join us because they had closed lunch hours, but we always told him what he was missing. He was a good sport and just laughed saying, “Enjoy the cookin’, boys!”
As John enters the Hall of Fame, I quote Walter Payton, the great Chicago Bear, who said, “Life is short, but it is oh so sweet. There are a lot of people that we meet as we walk through these hallowed halls, but the things that mean the most are the friendships that you meet and take along with you.”
John, we can say with a great deal of confidence, JB and Mary Jane are looking down upon you and smiling today as they say, “Well done, son. Well done.”
Congratulations, my friend.
Pat Haley is former Clinton County Commissioner and former Clinton County Sheriff.