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"KOE" 2003 Obituary


KOEBEL o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-02-07 published
The unsung hero of Walkerton
The public-health inspector issued a boil-water advisory and personally drove samples to a distant lab as the crisis unfolded
By Allison LAWLOR Friday, February 7, 2003, Page R13
David PATTERSON, the public-health inspector who sounded alarm bells about tainted water in Walkerton, Ontario, where seven people died of E. coli poisoning in May, 2000, has died. He was He died of rare complications related to rheumatoid arthritis, said his wife, Sharon Patterson.
"He was extremely dedicated. I feel he gave his life to public health for 33 years," said Jim PATON, the Grey Bruce Health Unit's director of health protection and Mr. PATTERSON's long-time colleague and friend. Mr. PATTERSON worked at the health unit for 30 years. He retired just a few months after the E. coli tragedy hit the Western Ontario town.
"He has been described as the unsung hero of Walkerton," Mr. PATON said.
When a worried local doctor alerted him about cases of diarrhea in people from Walkerton, Mr. PATTERSON launched the initial investigation to determine the cause of the illness.
Although he initially suspected a problem with bad food, the common source for E. coli infections, Mr. PATTERSON also called the manager of the municipal water supply and asked if there were any problems with the water. The manager, Stan KOEBEL, repeatedly assured him that the town's drinking water was fine.
As the illness spread through the community, Mr. PATTERSON became convinced that the municipal water supply was the only plausible source of the infection.
He quickly wrote out a boil-water advisory for the town on the afternoon of May 21, 2000, the Sunday of the Victoria Day weekend. The advisory, urging residents to boil their tap water, was not lifted until December 5, 2000.
Later on May 21, Mr. PATTERSON and his wife drove 21 samples of Walkerton water to a laboratory in London, Ontario, arriving after midnight. On their trip home, in the dead of night, they almost hit a deer.
Tests confirmed that the municipal water system was contaminated with E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.
"It was just astounding what that man did," said Dr. Murray McQUIGGE, the former medical officer of health at the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Health Unit, who left the health unit in March, 2002. (The health unit changed its name in 2001.)
In addition to the seven people who died from the E. coli infection, 2,500 people in Walkerton became ill, some seriously.
"I believe he did the very best he could have under the circumstances," Bruce DAVIDSON of the group Concerned Walkerton Citizens said.
Mr. PATTERSON confronted Mr. KOEBEL to find out what had gone wrong. The details of how Walkerton's water became contaminated with E. coli were revealed at a public inquiry that opened in the town in October, 2000, five months after the contamination came to light.
"When Mr. KOEBEL learned from test results for the samples collected on May 15 that there was a high level of contamination in the system, he did not disclose the results to the health officials in the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Health Unit who were investigating the outbreak of illnesses in the community. Instead, he misled them by assuring them that the water was safe," Mr. Justice Dennis O'CONNOR wrote in Part 1 of his report of the Walkerton inquiry.
Mr. PATTERSON's meticulous record-keeping and detailing of the events around the tragedy proved to be a valuable source of information at the inquiry. In the first weekend that the water crisis unfolded, he compiled close to 80 pages of notes, documenting the times and contents of each conversation he had, Mr. PATON said.
While Mr. PATTERSON was scheduled to take early retirement in the fall of 2000, he remained with the health unit on contract to help with the exhaustive inquiry. Taking the stand at the inquiry was emotionally difficult for Mr. PATTERSON, particularly when lawyers tried to attack his credibility.
"He was a gentleman during the inquiry," Dr. McQUIGGE said, adding that his colleague often had to bite his tongue.
A quiet and private person, Mr. PATTERSON didn't seek the spotlight and said little to the mews media during and after the inquiry.
"Walkerton took its toll on everybody," Dr. McQUIGGE said. "It was tremendously taxing."
David PATTERSON was born on November 2, 1950, in Owen Sound, Ontario He was the second of four children to Fred and Mary PATTERSON. He was raised in the small community of Tara, south of Owen Sound, where he also raised his family. His father owned a business installing tile drainage for local farmers. As a teenager, Mr. PATTERSON worked with his father during the summers.
It was as a young teen that he developed his lifelong hobby of restoring old cars to mint condition; most of them were 1932-34 Fords. He enjoyed taking his cars out to local fairs and other events and last fall chauffeured his daughter to her wedding in one.
After graduating from Chesley District High School, he attended Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, where he studied public-health inspection. He graduated in 1970, and the same year passed the tests to become a certified public-health inspector. That year, he also married his high-school sweetheart Sharon. They had two children.
Mr. PATTERSON started work at the age of 19 at the health unit in Owen Sound, where he worked the length of his public-health career.
He began as a public-health inspector and was promoted to a supervisory position first in 1982 and then in 1989, when he became assistant director of health protection with the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Health Unit.
In the mid-1990s, Mr. PATTERSON and the health unit were involved in a high-profile court case in which they took a local farmer to court for selling unpasteurized milk. Mr. PATTERSON couldn't stand the thought that people could be put at undue risk for drinking the unpasteurized milk, Dr. McQUIGGE said.
"This [public health] was his calling," Dr. McQUIGGE said. "He was passionate about it."
After the Walkerton inquiry wrapped up, Mr. PATTERSON left the health unit and went to work for the local conservation authority reviewing people's applications for government grants to improve their water systems.
Mr. PATTERSON preferred life in small-town Ontario to that in a big city. He enjoyed the outdoors and frequently went on canoeing, hiking and hunting trips with his family.
"He felt strongly about protecting the outdoors," said Sharon, his wife. "He was just a very dedicated person -- he really believed in things."
Mr. PATTERSON leaves his wife, son Michael, daughter April and his parents.
David PATTERSON, born on November 2, 1950, in Owen Sound, Ontario, died on January 10, 2003, in Owen Sound.

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KOENIG o@ca.on.manitoulin.howland.little_current.manitoulin_expositor 2003-06-04 published
Funeral services for Mr. Rick FRANCIS, age 47 years, who died Saturday, May 17, 2003, were held on Tuesday evening in the Blake Funeral Chapel in Thunder Bay, ON, led by Reverend Larry KROKER of Saint Anne's Church. Eulogies were offered by Kevin MAIN, Jaymie PENNY, Paul FRANCIS, Jennifer O'NEIL and Tamara BROWN. Numerous co-workers from the city of Thunder Bay, fellow coaches from minor hockey, neighbors, Friends and family attended the service. Removal was then made to Little Current, for visitation and Funeral Mass in Saint Bernard's Church celebrated by Reverend Bert FOLIOT S.J. on Thursday, May 22, 2003. The readings were proclaimed by Celina McGREGOR, Jennifer KEYS, Raquel KOENIG and PollyAnna McNALLY. Eulogies were offered by Kerry FRANCIS, Raymond FRANCIS, Jenny McGRAW, Paul FRANCIS and Ruthanne FRANCIS. The offertory gifts were presented by Kerry and Brenda FRANCIS. The Soloist was Rosa PITAWANAKWAT- BURK/BURKE accompanied by the organist Thomas NESHIKWE. Services were largely attended by long time Friends, members of Saint Bernard Church, and family. Honourary Pallbearers were Jeff FRANCIS and David LARSON. The Active Pallbearers were Allan ESHKAWKOGAN, Paul FRANCIS Jr., Robert McGRAW Jr., Craig KOENIG, Mike McNALLY and Chris KEYS.

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