Little Patricia Jean was a “miracle child” coming as a surprise when her older brothers, Stan and Glen, were already 13 and 14. Her little brother Ron came still later. Her mother, Grace Wight Burton, dressed her only girl as a little princess, somewhat to the child’s embarrassment, making sure she changed into play clothes when she came home from school before helping with chores. She tedded and raked hay and even drove the truck but was not allowed to mow or bale, jobs her father deemed too dangerous. She was an eager reader and played piano for hours, teaching herself the first piano book. At that point her mother asked Mrs. Wright, down the street at the Presbyterian manse, to teach her. Mrs. Wright also made Pat’s party dresses.
Grace Burton, one of the formidable Wight sisters from Cabin Hill, was a strict disciplinarian. Pat’s father, Rolland, had grown up on a farm but chose to work in the creamery business. He came to Andes to manage the Co-op Creamery which unfortunately burned down in 1946. Rolland Burton became a cattle dealer and looked for a farm to house his stock. He gave his wife a choice of 3 he found suitable. She chose the farm on Delaware Avenue on the edge of the village. Perhaps the proximity to the school and church and all the doings in Andes played a role in her decision.
Fortunately for us, Pat Burton Brannen has come back to live in the family homestead. In the meantime she has had a self-giving and adventurous life.
After graduation from ACS, she enrolled in the Bryant College of Business Administration in Providence, Rhode Island, then in SUNY Albany. She fell in love with a good-looking man named Carl Brannen and left school to marry him. They settled on Shaver Hill, and later Murphy Hill, on beautiful acres of woods, meadows and brooks. She taught business subjects at Grand Gorge High School but when the children, Sean, Heather and later Erich, were born, Pat became, as she puts it, “Little Miss Homemaker.” She baked all her own bread and pies, put up jam, planted and harvested a big garden. She sewed Heather’s dresses, knitted and crocheted. She took the children on walks through the woods. She read poetry to them as they picnicked and let them play in the brooks and slide down waterfalls. She loved being there when they came home from school.
The family joined the Pleasant Valley Methodist Church on the Tremperskill Road where Pat taught Sunday School and played the organ. After that church closed, she joined the Andes United Methodist Church. She and Walter Coddington played piano-organ duets, she on piano, he on organ, until his retirement when Pat became organist, a position she fills to this day.
As the children grew up, Pat worked a couple of tax seasons for H&R Block and then for Social Services in Delhi, at first as an accountant. She became a Public Assistance examiner, then a Child Welfare case worker, a demanding job, teaching parenting skills to foster parents, researching and reporting child custody cases, rescuing children. When Eric came along, she took a year off.
Then she went back to the perfect job: Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly. It was a new program, designed to offer help to seniors not on Medicaid. Pat was a part of it from its inception. Although it is a very structured program, for Pat it has been a ministry. She didn’t tell me this. Her clients have raved to me about her patience, persistence, kindness, availability and caring, painstaking service. They tell me that she listens to their stories attentively and often offers services they didn’t know about. She always, always returns their phone calls with grace.
One of the pleasures of the job for her has been working with clients for 10 years or so. One of the painful parts has been that, in time, they die. This month Pat retired. She feels it is time.
And what of her children? Sean is a carpenter and mechanic, living in Andes. He has a four-year-old daughter, Isis, who is the light of her grandmother’s life. Heather attended Cazenovia Art School and then joined the United States Air Force. Erich, after traveling all over the country, has settled in Asheville, North Carolina where he is a talented painter and drummer and is applying for college. He and his companion are health food enthusiasts. Myriam is enrolling in a course for holistic herbal medicine.
Pat Brannen is not just a wonderful musician. She has discovered the theater; first working on sound, lighting and keyboard for the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville, then acting in Dicken’s “Cricket on the Hearth” as Tilly Slowboy and two roles in the latest production, “Pepacton,” about John Burroughs. But the highlight of her acting career, so far, was “Steel Magnolias,” performed by a fine ensemble and directed by David Turan, in which she played Weezer (to great acclaim.)
Now that she has retired from a position she served with grace and honor, Pat is looking forward to gardening at home and reaching out even more to her community. She is nourished by a spiritual group and will always be active in her church. On the horizon: Yoga? A book group? I’m sure she will find many outlets for her energy and talents. Andes is blessed to have her in our midst. ~