This is the third time I’ve written about Patty Martone this week, so there’s a chance I’ll repeat myself. But on some occasions repetition for the sake of emphasis can be a good thing, and the death of a strong community advocate is one of them.
Some people have a profound effect on us not just because of who they are but also because of when we meet them. In my case, Patty was an adult who took teenagers seriously and came into my life just when I was ready to be taken seriously. Sitting in her freshman English class at Central High School, I first realized that learning was not just something you did to get a grade. Learning is how you approach life.
Hundreds of us passed through her classes, and those who paid enough attention came out much more prepared to deal with the whims and ironies that would confront us after high school. We became “Patty’s kids,” and she followed our progress for the rest of our lives. She loved us all and was proud of our every accomplishment. Now, that’s a teacher.
I think she came along at the right time for the city, too, “retiring” from Fort Wayne Community Schools just when we needed the combination of cheerleader and volunteer we foolishly call “community activists.” Too many old-time leaders, who grew up here and then gave back, were dying off, to be replaced by middle managers for whom Fort Wayne was just a stop along the career path. They had civic virtue – good deeds are often part of the corporate charter – but lacked the knowledge of where their best efforts should go.
Patty knew this city in and out, north and south, good and bad. She could have gone anywhere and succeeded, but she stayed home and helped us smooth out the rough edges of our community treasure. Her boundless enthusiasm and tireless energy were infectious, so her efforts were magnified by the work of all those she inspired. And as a good teacher helps us understand accumulated wisdom and connect the past with the future, so a community leader helps build on the work of past generations.
Patty Martone was my friend, and I will miss her terribly. So will this city. But she left us much better off than she found us. And if we think about continuity, we will realize she left thousands of us behind to carry on. And that’s what we will do – that is her legacy.