We are sad to announce that on May 28, 2021, at the age of 84, James Merrell Patterson (Apache, Oklahoma), born in Lawton, Oklahoma passed away.
He was predeceased by: his parents, James Earl “Buck” and Merrell Fleta Patterson (Dietrich); and his sister Molly (Sybil). He is survived by: his wife Katie; his children, Mary Kate and Jimmy (Cyndi); his grandsons; his sisters, Patsy and Lotsee; his nieces and nephews; and his great-nieces and great-nephews.
Jim, you were a legend. The kindest, best, funniest Dad a seventeen year old could have wished for. I still tell people how you taught me to go ‘countin’ fence posts’ in your red pickup truck, cooler box filled with Coors as we drove around while you taught me about life. Katie too, taught me about life: Peter, who do you think chooses their partner? ‘Why, the man of course, Katie!’ – gales of laughter. Lemme tell you Peter, when Jim walked into the bank I said to my girlfriends, ‘I’m gonna marry that man.’
Today is gonna be a sad day of reflection for me. Also wonderful memories. Great fondness. I must get hold of Katie and Mary-Kate.
I see Peggy Manar (83) and Eugene Mindemann (85) also died – both in October 2020. And so things change. Like Jim and Katie, they too (and their spouses Tom and Odie) were wonderfully kind to me in my year in Apache back in 1973. As were the Hrbaceks, the Paynes, the Crews, the Lehnertzs, the Swandas, the Rotary club, the school, everyone. A magic year, 1973.
So many memories. I’ll come back to this post and add over time.
Another Jim moment: Jim was asking me what subjects I was taking in my senior year at Apache High School.
But first lemme explain: I had finished school back in South Africa. I was done. I was here to have fun and learn new things – things other than school. So I told him: I had to take American history as I was a foreigner; I had to take English as I spoke the Queen’s English and that needed fixing; Then I took Ag shop, Annual staff, Phys Ed and Typing.
He looked at me in amazement: (or was it envy?) – ‘What? They didn’t have Basket Weavin’?!’ he asked with a huge grin.
I didn’t ever meet the famous old sub-species bird man*, but for a while he lived next door to me in Marriott Road. I was in Whittington Court, he was in Eden Gardens; I found this out when I spotted a nightjar at my window one night and got very excited; I listened every night and finally heard it – it was the freckled; Now more excited – a Freckled Nightjar in the city! – I was about to announce my discovery when I read Dr Clancey knew all about it – it roosted on his roof next door! The Eden Gardens had a flat roof and it was covered in stones or gravel. Good spot for a Freckled to conceal itself by day.
So after I found info on the bird; and after Aitch and I had prowled around the gardens of his hotel at night and found our first Bush Squeaker frog one rainy night (Arthroleptis wahlbergi), I went looking for info on the man (usual warning here: This is me, approximate and amateur historian, giving my version of things – look at the references if you need accuracy).
Clancey was director of the Durban Museum and Art Gallery for thirty years until his retirement in 1982. He then continued as a research associate until his death in 2001, aged 83. He was a confirmed bachelor and the most ruthlessly dedicated and hardworking of ornithologists. He wrote a number of books of which The Birds of Natal and Zululand (1964), The Game Birds of South Africa (1967) and The Rare Birds of Southern Africa (1985) are now valuable Africana. Yeah, I hope so! I have two of them. So far my “investment” in bird books has been a damp squib.
As a young man ca.1949 he was a field assistant to the famous British military and ornithological fraud, Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a dodgy, lying, philandering Englishman who faked much of his life and got away with murdering his wife. They once nearly shot each other in a heated disagreement over bustards in Namibia. Guns were drawn before the hired skinner stepped between the protagonists. Sanity prevailed and tempers cooled. On another occasion Clancey fell ill in a remote spot and was abandoned to his fate by Meinertzhagen. Clancey was not given his due by Meinertzhagen in his writings – those who knew Meinertzhagen were not surprised.
In 1950 Clancey moved to South Africa, to Durban as curator of the museum.
Years later, Clancey had a famous professional rivalry with Colonel John Vincent, one time head of the Natal Parks Board and himself an ornithologist of note. One one occasion Vincent had him arrested for collecting without a permit. His shotgun was confiscated. Undeterred, Clancey bought it back at a subsequent auction.
He must have rubbed people up the wrong way! Vincent Parker prominent atlasser and bird survey guru, in his 1999 The Atlas of the Birds of Sul do Save, southern Mozambique, also didn’t give Clancey his due, ignoring many of his records and relegating others to an appendix (‘subject to confirmation’), which ‘in most cases was quite unjustified’ (see the obituary in Ibis by Dowsett, Allan, and McGowan).
Clancey never had much regard for unnecessary luxury, and retired to a small room in a residential hotel – right next door to my Marriott road flat – in Durban. He continued to write papers, named 328 African bird taxa (more than any other contemporary scientist). The majority of his holotypes are in Durban Museum or the National Museum of Zimbabwe. R J Dowsett wrote: ‘I know of over 550 publications on African birds by Phillip Clancey, for most of which he was sole author (and not counting the sub-divisions of his miscellaneous taxonomic notes series).’ Later he increasingly devoted himself to his painting. His style was unmistakable, rich colours, attention to detail, and always the correct ecological background.
Any birder who has spent time in Natal will have seen these birds in just that habitat! Eminently recognisable.
Clancey donated his collection of some 5,500 mainly Western Palaearctic bird-skins to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. He donated his collection over 32,000 bird-skins – a collection considered the finest in Africa – to the Durban Museum and Art Gallery.
And also – unbeknown to him – he was my neighbour.
Look for the honest biography on that fraud Meinertzhagen – there are bulldust hagiographies out there: “The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud” by Brian Garfield
* sub-species bird man? I think Clancey was that dreaded sub-species of ornithologists called a splitter! He keenly added sub-species to existing species if he felt they were different enough. He found many many birds in new localities, expanded the known range of many, and did find good sub-species. Plus, he found one new full species, the Lemon-Breasted Canary Crithagra citrinipectus in the Maputaland coastal grasslands.
I went looking for Dottie, wondering where she was and what she was doing. And found an obituary on the internet!
Dottie Moffett Butler died unexpectedly at her home in San Diego, California on Wednesday 5 July 2006. Dottie was born 8 July 1955 in Daytona Beach Florida. At the age of seven her family moved to Chickasha Oklahoma and then, several years later, moved to Ardmore Oklahoma. Dottie graduated from Ardmore High School where she was active in several student organizations, including the women’s tennis team.
During her junior year she was a Rotary Exchange student to South Africa.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and then her master’s degree in psychology from East Central University in Ada Oklahoma. As a psychologist, Dottie was a compassionate and caring counselor whose gift for helping others through difficult times will long be remembered. Dottie is survived by her husband, Dr. Harrison Butler, in San Diego; her mother, Dorothy Moffett McCall, in Durham North Carolina; her sister, Dale Moffett, in Cary North Carolina; two brothers, David Moffett and his wife Mary, Minneapolis Minnesota, and Denny Moffett and his wife Mary, Tulsa Oklahoma, as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father Dr. J. Denny Moffett Jr.
Condolences to the family may be sent in care of Dorothy McCall (her mother), Durham, NC (note: since deceased – in 2014, aged 88).
Her family suggests contributions in Dottie’s memory be made to The Wilson House, East Dorest Vermont. A remembrance service for Dottie was held July 15, in San Diego. A second service will be held on Saturday, 4 September 2006 on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, where Dottie and others in her family have enjoyed the serenity and peacefulness of Long Pond.
Information provided by Haigh-Black Funeral Home and Cremation Service.
Devastated. Too soon! Dottie was a special lady. I knew her only for a couple years, in Oklahoma and in Cape Town, but she was unforgettable – her big heart, her hearty laugh, and much else – just a special person . . . . . darn!
Here’s Dottie with Jim Patterson of Apache OK in the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico in 1973.
UPDATE July 2020: I have just discovered a bunch of old letters in boxes in the garage; some of them from Dottie! Lovely surprise. I had visited her in Cape Town and she was all confused. Something about a boyfriend. Good thing she didn’t ask for advice – I was pathetic at relationships! She was taking him home to meet her twin sister Dale and her Mom and I think there was some nervous tension.