Pat Child passed away earlier today. I knew something was up when I walked into the newsroom and saw Ann hugging Tim Clune, both of them teary.
He was diagnosed with brain cancer a few months ago. I expected Pat to tell the cancer to screw itself and then get on with his life. He said he didn’t want to suffer thorough treatment – but he did. Life is too precious to give up easily.
Recently he had been in and out of the hospital. As fluid in his brain built up, Pat would suffer only to come back when the pressure was relieved. Today he died at the hospital in Venice, Florida.
Most likely, you didn’t know Pat Child. He was worth knowing.
I first met Pat when I went to work for WTNH in 1984. Even then Pat was a grizzled photographer, wiser by far than any of the kid reporters he worked with.
I will always picture him with a cigarette hanging from his lips or between his stained fingers. Back then we could smoke in the station, in the news vehicles, everywhere. Pat took advantage.
Pat was not an artist with his camera. His shots shook. He never used a tripod.
I remember shooting a piece in my Mr. Science series and being assigned Pat. Right away he let me know this wasn’t his type of assignment. He started by calling me Geoffrey. He was a spot news kind of guy. He would do his best… but, you know…
On our way back the assignment desk called. There had been a shooting in New Haven. Could we stop by and get video. Though I am the weatherman, that afternoon I became a reporter for a few moments. That impressed Pat and we were friends from that day on.
Friendship with Pat was totally built on mutual respect.
So, why is a news photographer who wasn’t the world’s greatest photographer so important, so memorable? Pat was one of the brightest and certainly wisest men I’ve ever met. Pat was honest – maybe honest to a fault.
Though a scholarship recipient at Yale, he left early and headed to the Air Force where he shot the early days of the space program on film. I can’t imagine Pat in the Air Force. He was too opinionated and willing to confront authority. Actually, I can’t imagine Pat as a Yale graduate either. Their diploma would have lessened his obvious street smarts.
He came to work at the TV station in the early days of local news. It was a less sophisticated, less slick era of television.
When you were with Pat, you couldn’t let something slide. He was too smart to let you. If he liked you, and I think (and hope) he liked me, he would save your butt by being insightful at a time you thought he wasn’t even paying attention.
You could go to Pat and ask him about any event we’d ever covered (and many we hadn’t) and he would know all about it. He would point you in the right direction. He might even add things you hadn’t thought of including. And he would do it all from the perspective of the intellectual he was – a label I’m sure he’d find objectionable.
As Pat got older, and the run and gun life of a photographer lost his luster, he became a satellite truck operator. Working with Pat was like money in the bank.
He didn’t seem like the type who would ever retire, and yet after 38 years at the station, he did.
Friends threw Pat a spectacular going away party at the Rusty Scupper. I was astounded by all the important and talented people who came back to Connecticut to remember Pat. Others who couldn’t make it, sent back videotaped tributes.
It was a once in a lifetime event for two reasons. First, Pat’s retirement marked the end of one era of television. I don’t know if it was a better era, but it was different. Pat Child represented much of what was good about it.
Second, I have never felt so much love for one man in one room. That was astounding.
Tonight, I feel sad for Pat’s kids, his wife Kim (who also worked here for years) and his identical twin brother Bob. I feel sadder for those who didn’t get to share a little of Pat’s life. He was an exceptional man. He has touched me deeply. I will remember him forever.
I told former Channel 8 reporter, and longtime WNBC anchor, Sue Simmons about Pat here’s what she had to say
thank you so much for letting me know about pat child. he was VERY helpful to me when i was a young STRUGGLING reporter. i came to channel 8 with no experience…straight out of the secretarial desk. i had no idea about affirmative action and all of that….i had incredibly good timing. pat and everyone else knew i was a token hire, but they were all so supportive. particularly the photographers.
so, it was MY pleasure to honor pat by coming to his party. and, may i say i felt very comfortable in a strangely familiar atmosphere. afterall it had been 30-years or so. I was at wtnh in ’72-’74. i even found myself daydreaming about what things would’ve been like if WTNH had given me an anchor job and i stayed for all these years. i thought maybe i’d have a big ole house in branford or some shoretown. i know i’d have been happy. i was thrilled to get the job back then really didn’t know about the moving around from market to market ‘game.’ but, as the afternoon went by and i had to leave, i snapped myself back into reality and drove back to new york feeling wonderful. i’d said my hellos to some old friends.
even though i didn’t really get a chance to talk at length with pat, i was so glad to see him…and be reminded of what a really special fellow he was. i loved seeing how many people’s lives he’d touched thru the years. i’d forgotten what a sweet curmudgen he was and i’m always attracted to that type of person. the one who dares to say what they think. he was SO smart and talented. i’ll miss him too!
thanks again for letting me know that my visit meant something to him. it certainly meant alot to me.