In Loving Memory

Richard H. Patton Jr. (1947-2022)

Mr. Patton served as VCR’s Executive Director for over 25 years. He was an exceptional leader, a visionary, and the kind of person who you only get to meet once in a lifetime. On top of being an incredibly generous, kind-hearted, and thoughtful person, Rich Patton was a true innovator. He has single-handedly changed the way we all think about child well-being. His legacy will shape the future of our community as we go onward and upward towards our vision – that all children receive the support they need to reach their full potential, regardless of what zip code they live in.

Mr. Patton revolutionized the work of the non-profit community in St. Louis with his commitment to the daily practice of kindness and allyship. It is easy to overlook the points of connection in all our work, and the way that each organization depends on its peers to withstand financial and political hardships. We can get caught up in the microcosm of our own internal affairs, day-to-day challenges, and pieces of the visionary puzzle for our region. Not Mr. Patton, he was a strategic thinker, and his strategy was always solidarity.

There is a lot of good work being done today on the issues of intersectionality and collaboration in advocacy. That is something we should all celebrate. But there are people who brought those ideas to the foreground before they gained traction, and Mr. Patton was a pioneer and champion of those ideals. He was and will remain the source of our strength and the foundation upon which all of VCR’s work will continue. We will do our best to live up to the standard he has set for.

Together We Remember

We invite you to join us in remembering Mr. Rich Patton. Complete the form at the bottom of the page to share your story.

“Rich had an innate sense of justice that was beautifully complemented by his care for each individual. That combination, along with a great sense of humor and a readiness to bring people together in common effort, made him an exceptionally innovative leader. And it helped VCR become an effective voice for children on the margins. For so many, Rich was an inspiration -- and the dearest of friends.”

"Rich took a shortcut home from elementary school, over vacant property and across River DesPeres. That route today would bring him through my yard. I celebrate the 25 years I have known Rich while also reflecting on the years I did not know him. What if our paths intersected on that vacant lot those many years ago and I discovered a new friend? We share with friends. We learn from friends. How do you accomplish so much and remain so humble?  How do you set goals on behalf of others, not self? How do you foster understanding, not division? How does one with dedication, focus and passion make a real and lasting difference? Thank you Rich for the years we shared, the wisdom, the humor, the stories, the insights, the friendship." 

Rich Patton was [a] capable and reliable captain of the VCR ship at the right time. His steady hands navigated us to calmer waters where the purpose of our journey could become clearer. I think Rich will always have one hand on the steer.

I first met Rich Patton through a mutual friend almost 20 years ago. That introduction led to me handling the insurance for VCR for many years. After a few years of working together, there was an opportunity to join the board. Rich was very upfront about the financial situation at the time as we were in the midst of a deep recession. However, Rich always worked with tenacity and an optimism that inspired those around him. I never saw him waiver from the mission of serving our region's children and never thought the task too daunting. VCR is a strong, vibrant, and impactful organization today because of Rich's leadership through those tough times. That's when heroes are made. 

I first met Rich Patton when I was a board member for the Teen Pregnancy & Prevention Partnership (TPPP). We were but a small coalition then and we had to beg or borrow meeting space from our partner organizations, which meant that each month, we were in a different location all over the city and county. Enter Rich and VCR! Rich gave TPPP monthly use of the VCR meeting room AND he gave us office space for our staff. That was his tangible contribution...but the less tangibles matter even more. His insight, his humor, his kindness, his wit, his spirit of collaboration (and so many more descriptors) were always on display in the most genuine of ways. They were a beacon for me, showing me how to do this work without losing my soul or my resolve. I love Ruth Ehresman's memorial for Rich - I too will be telling the story of Rich Patton as I carry on with advocacy and education, as will the countless children and families in our region who have healthier outcomes because of the work that he championed.

I have admired Rich from the day I met him. His passion for the welfare of others, particularly the children of our region was matchless. His work helped to bring focus to our efforts at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis.

Rich had a way of seeing the potential in people, not just their achievements. He could meet an individual and meter out what future they might attain, and grant them the resources to work toward their highest good. Rich was adept at dealing with people, from board members and community leaders to the kids who would play on the playground outside of the old VCR Offices on North Grand. As the Director of VCR he attended to all manner of duties, from welcoming high-level community leaders, to planting lovely hanging flower baskets and potted potato plants to skirt the door of the building. He dealt with recessions, legislative advocacy, doing dishes after a lunch meeting, hiring the next generation of child advocates, organizational reimagination... there was nothing Rich didn't do. He will always be a local hero and child advocate in my mind.

Thoughtful. Kind. Funny. Passionate. Dedicated. Considerate. Child-Loving. Hard-Working. Politically Astute. Appreciative. Opinionated. Easy-Going. These are some of the qualities that stand out for me when I think of Rich. I have always viewed him as a treasure professionally, and enjoyable personally. There was never a meeting at VCR that he didn't put on the coffee, bring in treats-- including healthy ones- and have the refrigerator full of cool drinks. He was a welcoming host, for sure, which was just one of his strengths as a convener. I was fortunate to be a part of so many of Rich's projects over the years. Rich loved St. Louis, and the kids of St. Louis. He invested in creating a better future and invited other human service providers to join him. He did not need the limelight, but always showed up, spoke when he had something to say, and was more than willing to engage in conversation when invited. Rich was an accomplished professional who left a legacy of programs, agencies, initiatives, and projects that have changed the landscape of our community for the better. And yet, for me, what I will miss most is who he was as a person. I could count on warm greetings, his wicked humor, stories that demonstrated his love and appreciation for life as we know it (Bragging about the crop of two strawberries he harvested and was going to enjoy and share with others or displaying the art of the two little neighbor girls in his house are just a couple that come to mind.), his concern and consideration for others. Rich's thoughtfulness showed up for me one time when we moved our offices into a proper building from the walk up converted apartment where we started. He knew (and cared) that I drink decaffeinated coffee, so he bought very nice little metal table tents to indicate which coffee was decaffeinated and put them in a Tiffany's box. I can't help but smile even now when I think of that, and it was 2011 when that happened. I still have the table tents AND the Tiffany's box! In losing Rich, we loss a bonified leader, a champion of children, a kind and compassionate human being. Rest well, my friend.

Mr. Patton has left a lasting impact on our community, that continues to become more and more clear to me. Personally, he has taught be thoughtful, bold, and to never give up. I know I am continuing, and will continue, to learn from his leadership and wisdom. I really enjoyed being part of the VCR team at the North Grand location, where the space felt welcoming and inviting because of his attention to detail and hospitality. Through all of this, he kept us all focused on the mission for children. I have also seen how he set VCR up for ongoing growth as he shifted into retirement, prepared for the transition of leadership, and as we moved locations. His vision and inspiration continues to live on in our work today.

I will always think of Mr. Patton when I read the children's book Click, Clack, MOO Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. He and Mrs. Patton gave this to my first born, and I love the message he passed on through this of advocating for change. There's an ask, some compromise, and in the end--the cows, chickens, and ducks all work together to get their requests met. My kids love it, and it will forever bring a smile to my face as I read it--a reminder to stand up for change.

Join Us In Remembering Together

Words by Ruth Ehresman, former Board Member and Staff Member

Shortly after I learned of Rich’s death, I saw The Fox’s production of Hamilton. Toward the end, Eliza sings “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Some of the lyrics are: 

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known; When I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control. Who live, who dies, who tells your story? …And when you are gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?”

I immediately thought of Rich and his story/legacy. No one was kinder than Rich. He was also smart, hilarious, and completely dedicated to improving the lives of children who suffer because of racial and economic disparities. He improved our world by inspiring us, respecting us, caring for us, prodding us, and sometimes dogging us.

As we continue to work to improve the lives of children, let us remember that we are telling his story. We are telling the story of Rich Patton when we put the work to be done above our desire to be recognized, when we support one another in ways large and small, and when we strive to understand complex issues and address the root causes of injustice and inequity. We are keeping the flame alive, remembering his name, telling his story.

Share your memories below. Our team will work promptly to add your stories to this page for collective remembering of Mr. Patton.