Patricia Ann Dolence, 76, of Mountain View, passed away suddenly after a brief rehabilitation stay at Rocky Mountain Care Center in Evanston, on Monday, June 1. She was born on April 23, 1944, to James Robert Cooper and Barbara (Cooper) DeJournette.
Pat was the oldest of four siblings, Robert, Kent and Dixie. She spent a lot of time — and had many fond memories — of babysitting her brothers, sister and cousins as they all grew up. Pat loved all children, and she knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a teacher.
Pat is preceded in death by her husband, Joe; and her parents, James Robert Cooper and Barbara DeJournette.
Pat is survived by her daughter, Jolene (Jamie) Pate of Firestone, Colorado; her grandchildren, Shannen, Trevor and Trenton Pate; her great-grandchildren, Brooklyn, Harper and Cooper Zadra; her brothers, Kent (Ginny) Cooper and Robert Cooper; and her sister, Dixie (Don) Etzler. Pat also has several nieces and nephews.
Pat’s incredible drive, determination, and work ethic started early in life. In addition to having nearly perfect grades every year and being part of different school clubs and activities in high school, she worked at the local Craig theater on weekends, where she’d let her brothers come to work with her all day and watch 25-cent movies. She also waitressed during the week and sometimes cleaned motel rooms.
Pat was the salutatorian of her graduating class and attended Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, studying early childhood education. While attending college, and afterward, she worked in Craig at the Cosgriff Diner — the swankiest place in town — working in the diner during the day, then she’d come back and tend bar in the nightclub at night. Some of Pat’s fondest memories and funny stories she’d love to tell were about all the great friendships she’d collected throughout the years she was at the Cosgriff.
Pat met Joe while she was tending bar in Craig, and he was doing some oilfield work there. Joe would joke that when he went to her apartment to visit her, there was a bottle of cheap wine, a brick of cheese and some ketchup in her fridge — she didn’t have time to think about eating. He eventually convinced her to let him fly her to Wyoming to visit him on the weekends. She was terrified of flying — and the teeny, tiny puddle jumper that took her from Craig to Rock Springs — and the turbulence from the ever-blowing wind made it worse.
One of the stories Jolene heard most growing up was Pat finding a way to deal with her flight fears — she’d consume every mini-bottle she could find on that short flight. One time when Joe greeted her at the airport during a downpour, and having drunk one too many mini-bottles, those now-famous Pat Dolence eyebrows had run down her face.
He was laughing so hard when he saw her, he couldn’t even tell her why, and every time Joe would tell the story for years, Pat would punch him in the arm, giving him the stern “Pat face,” and tell him he was just lucky she decided to come back to Wyoming again.
Lucky indeed, because shortly after that, Pat moved to Wyoming with Joe. She most definitely loved him, because Joe was working for Mountain Fuel, and they lived in a small camp trailer in Powder Wash — literally a man-camp smack dab in the middle of nowhere Wyoming desert. Pat had the natural ability to make friends wherever she went, and to make the best of any situation — no matter what life threw at her.
Her Powder Wash memories were fond ones to talk about — she met some of the best, lifelong friends she ever had there. And who would have ever pictured Pat Dolence living in the desert and growing a garden? But you know what? She did it.
After Powder Wash, Pat and Joe moved to Mountain View, married, and had their only child, Jolene. She was the absolute light of both of their lives, and Pat loved dressing Jolene up in all things girly.She volunteered at every one of Jolene’s school functions, in all of her classes, and was eventually approached with the idea of substitute teaching, since she spent so much time at the school anyway. Thus began Pat’s amazing career with Uinta County School District No. 4.
All of the teachers would compete for Pat to sub for them; she didn’t need a lot of lesson plan direction, and the students adored her. Time and again, we have been so humbled and blessed during our shock and grief to have former students reach out and share memories with us of Pat befriending the friendless.
She was a light to students and adults alike who were new to Bridger Valley and didn’t know anyone, making sure they felt comfortable and at ease. Pat’s substitute teaching career eventually transitioned into her becoming a para-professional in the Mountain View Special Education Department for many years. She helped and befriended countless students here as well, and families along the way.
At the same time Pat was working in the Special Education Department and Jolene was growing up, Pat’s extreme social drive led her to start waitressing at pretty much every eating establishment throughout Bridger Valley over the next 15 years or so. I don’t think there is a person around who can’t fondly recall — even if they don’t know her name — the friendly, efficient little lady with the big black bun, who could magically remember what you ate before you had a chance to tell her your order, and then compliment you on a job well done. Or she’d be sure to tell you to take your leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
She didn’t work all of these jobs because of need. She worked because she simply loved people. She craved every human connection she could make. In doing so, she never realized just how vital, how important and, most importantly, how loved she was by everyone she crossed paths with in one role or another in her life. If there is one lesson that can be learned, it is that even the most ordinary events — life’s day-to-day mundane tasks, how you go about them and how you treat people — matter. That’s what a legacy is built upon. Pat’s ordinary, everyday interactions strung together to create an extraordinary life that touched an unbelievable amount of people.
Pat’s next chapters in life revolved around her grandkids and great-grandkids and caring for Joe as he got older. All of the kids were the sunshine in her life, and she was the proudest grandma ever. She loved to pack pictures of all of them in her purse, to pull them out and show them off to people that she stopped to visit with at Benedict’s while shopping for her all-important Starbucks coffee, and having coffee at the drive-in with “the girls.”
Jolene had Shannen early in life, and Pat was the best second mom to her. It was something she fondly recalled just a month ago. She loved all the grandkids but the special time she got with Shannen bonded both of them, so they were extremely close. Sometimes Jolene would have to bribe Shannen, as a toddler, to come home at night from Grandma’s. There was no better place on earth than to be at Grandma’s and Papa’s house.
Some of Shannen’s, Trevor’s and Trent’s favorite memories growing up were going to Pop and Gram’s house after school, having lunch and doing homework with Gram’s ever-watchful eye making sure they didn’t dare goof around until the work was done.
Pat became a Bridger Valley walking and waiting icon during this chapter of her life. She could often be seen outside her house waiting for rides — and you had better be prompt, because if she wasn’t at least five minutes early, she was late, and she’d let you know about it. The little lady who never learned how to drive was also spotted walking everywhere around town, even in the Wyoming wind and cold. Many folks stopped over the years to give her rides, and her characteristic reply would always be a pat on the arm or knee, while saying, “Thanks, my bud!”
In the later years, when Joe became sick, it was his explicit wish to be able to remain at home. Everyone in her family depended heavily upon Pat in order to make this happen. Caring for him wasn’t easy. She hardly ever complained, and with her characteristic grace and determination, she just did what needed to be done so he was happy at home. She never received the thanks or credit she deserved for all she did during these years — being the key player in helping to honor his wishes.
Pat’s family has been so comforted by the absolutely awe-inspiring outpouring of love and memories shared during her sudden passing, that we have decided to hold a huge “Pat style” celebration of life to honor her in a few weeks. With the current COVID-19 restrictions put in place to keep everyone safe, we will not have an exact date picked out for a while until we see how the lessening of restrictions goes, and hopefully there won’t be a resurgence of the virus.
Details and the date will be announced as soon as we can safely plan. We want everyone to come. Please plan on coming with your favorite memory of her, and we’ll have a microphone so everyone can laugh and cry together. We strongly feel this is absolutely what she’d want — to see just how many people, in so many different capacities in her life, loved her and will miss her dearly. We’ll also have a luncheon, and I know she’ll be smiling down upon all of us as we celebrate one of the best humans ever to be among us.
Cremation has taken, and Pat will be inurned in the Craig Colorado Cemetery near her parents at a later date. Condolences can be sent to the Crandall Funeral Home website www.crandallfhevanston.com, and flowers can be sent for her celebration of life when a date can safely be announced. The family will post details in the local paper and on social media soon.