Dennis Alton Patterson, of Carey, Idaho, beloved locally for his years of dedicated service on Wood River Ambulance, and Carey Fire and Rescue, passed away with family nearby and his wife, Cheryl at his side, on Thursday morning. They were preparing to celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary in October. Born on 22 April 1952, Dennis was the fourth child of Alton and Blanche Patterson, of Carey. He was preceded in death by both parents, as well as a sister, Sandy Stolp. Surviving Dennis are his siblings Doug Patterson, and Faye Rupe; his spouse Cheryl; their children Trinity Patterson, Arriel Hill, Dusty Patterson, and Savannah Lewis; and their nine grandchildren. Dennis attended Carey High School, where he played football and ran track. After graduation he had a brief stint for the football team at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. That was cut short when he enlisted into the Army at age 17, with the intent to go to Vietnam. He served in the 102nd Army Engineers Corps from 1969-72. A pattern began to emerge in Dennis’s life. He began to have experiences escaping death, including missing a flight home to the U.S. on leave. That missed flight crashed over the ocean and there were no survivors. He survived a stint as a door-gunner on a helicopter where life expectancy was just two-weeks. And of course, the eight car wrecks he was involved in by the time that he was just 27. It seemed to those around him that he was being preserved for something. Upon returning home from Vietnam, he met Cheryl Hiatt, of Richfield, Idaho. They were married 7 Oct 1972. The couple had a successful mobile wheel line irrigation installation business that operated in the western states until it was time for their first child to start school. At that time, they sold their business and began working towards establishing permanent roots for their family. The pattern of Dennis’s near-death experiences and being preserved for a larger purpose met a crossroads in 1979. Traveling as a passenger, he was involved in his eighth car wreck and was ejected from the vehicle. The details of the crash made his survival highly unlikely, but he was preserved once more. At the crash scene Dennis observed the volunteer EMTs, one of which was his mother-in-law. He was inspired by what he saw. Following his recovery, he sought training to become a volunteer EMT himself. He had started down the path for which we like to believe he had been preserved. The family set down permanent roots in Carey in 1980. The final two children were added to the family shortly after. He continued his training and was eventually employed full-time by Wood River Ambulance. He continued to serve as a volunteer in his home community of Carey as well. He taught CPR and brought students through the volunteer EMT process, assisting many on through their careers in EMS. Dennis is beloved for the role he played in helping to develop careers, by the people that served alongside him, and by the people who’s lives he saved. The new pattern that developed was that Dennis had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Like driving up on a roll over in the California desert late at night, which when an additional vehicle later arrived, the driver made a point to tell Dennis’s kids that had it not been for their parents, those crash victims would have certainly died. Or, when he witnessed the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler run over a motorcyclist, leaving the cyclist with life-threatening injuries. Through his timely assistance and training, that person also survived, and would always refer to Dennis as her angel. Dennis always had his ‘Jump Kit’ with him and was ready to perform the duties for which he had been trained in a moment’s notice. I recall many times as a youth when his pager would go off and then riding to the scene of someone’s distress and waiting patiently in the car while dad did what needed done. It’s an amazing way to grow up, seeing one’s father perform that way, to the point that it just became ‘the norm’. Dennis continued his training and obtained his Paramedic license, being the first in the valley to provide that level of care. In addition to his work professionally, he was instrumental in transitioning Carey to the first Advanced Quick Response Unit (QRU) in Idaho, and then from a QRU to a transport ambulance service, to better serve the community. He also served as the first Chief in Carey to be over both Fire and EMS.
The work that Dennis was preserved for went beyond EMS. While Cheryl handled the primary duties of raising the children, Dennis was always quick with a report of what his kids were doing, and where they were excelling. He took a great amount of personal satisfaction in seeing them become successful in their life pursuits, willing to help and sacrifice on their behalf whenever needed. He was a proud father.
Although recognized primarily for his work in EMS his greatest work may have been his knack for recognizing when someone needed help and being there to provide it. He had a particular sense for those who were struggling in some way, those who were falling behind, those who might be different, those who might doubt themselves, and those who needed someone to lend them a hand. Dennis, through his innate kindness, had a great ability to be a friend to all. And we say, “Dad! How very much like our Savior! “
One of the tender mercies that we enjoyed as a family was dad’s time at St Luke’s in Ketchum. Amid difficult circumstances they provided us with the best situation that we could have hoped for. We are so grateful for the staff who cared for our dad and provided a way for us to have meaningful time to say our goodbyes. We like to think of it as the community that he served showing its thanks for all that he did.
Dennis is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. On 12 July 1984 the family was sealed in the Boise Idaho LDS temple. We know that families can be together forever. The time has finally come where the work for which he was being preserved is done. It’s finally time to be called home. We love you dad.