We will always remember Richard Patterson

The VMC family has lost a true hero.

Richard Patterson passed away last night peacefully, surrounded by his family and friends, to a personal rendition of his favorite song.

In the words of Dr. Stephanie Kolakowsky-Hayner, who leads VMC’s Rehabilitation Research Center

Richard was an amazing man who influenced so many diverse circles and will be missed terribly. He led the peer-support counseling program at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for the past 15 years. He was a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities, peer support coordinator, committee member for the Public Authority for In-Home-Supportive-Services, a co-chair of the Disability Advisory Commission for the City of San Jose, brother, son, fiancé, colleague, and friend. His loss will impact the thousands of lives he has touched.

Richard PattersonOne life was mine. I met Rich eight years ago, and there’s no end to what he taught me. Rich was the first to explain to me that “you never really ‘accept’ your spinal cord injury, rather you learn to live and work with it, the best you can, which is why peer support is so critical.” As much as someone not living with a disability can understand, Richard Patterson helped me understand.

Our work together saw Richard leading adventurists (like him) with disabilities on glider rides, whale-watching and SCUBA trips, and other excursions that proved what was possible. Great men like Steve Lyon and Marv Tuttle worked with Richard for years to demonstrate to thousands that life after a spinal cord injury can be full and exciting. The VMC Foundation will be forever proud to be part of his legacy.

We have, therefore, established a fund in his name, to ensure that his peer support and community work will grow. His family requests that gifts be sent to the VMC Foundation, 2400 Moorpark Ave. #207, San Jose CA 95128. Be sure to write “Richard Patterson” in the memo of your check, or to give by ccard, call us at 408-885-5299 or visit us on line.

Rich, I’ll miss you buddy. We all will.

4 replies
  1. S. Burns
    S. Burns says:

    Dear Chris, Colleagues, Friends and Family of Richard~

    I was shocked to hear of Rich's passing last night – Dean McCully with Cisco put out an email alert this morning – and I am deeply sorry for your tremendous loss. I had the honor and delight to work with Richard for a number of years on the start-up of the VMC Peer Support Network through my work at SVILC. The PSN has always been an invaluable support program for countless people who have an SCI. I pray Richard's legacy will live on through this important peer-to-peer program. Thank you, Richard, for the strong and memorable impact you made on thousands of lives.

    Sheri Burns,OTR/L
    Executive Director, Community Resources for Independent Living

  2. Diane
    Diane says:

    What wasn't mentioned in the article was all the times Richard came to the Every 15 Minutes retreats & shared his experiences with high school students learning how to make good choices in regard to drinking and driving. Richard never lectured, he just told his story and how it all unfolded.
    I, and all the Every 15 Minutes regulars, will not forget Richard and his contributions. May he rest in peace. Thank you Richard.

    Diane St. Denis, BSN, RN
    VMC Emergency Department

  3. Elie Georges
    Elie Georges says:

    Richard was a great individual and very committed to the sci community. He introduced me to gliding and I am very grateful to him. I attended many of the support group meetings and was always inspired by Richard's positive outlook to a cure to spinal cord injuries. He was very resourceful and provided the sci community a wide range of informational focus group like meetings. Richard always had a beautiful and bright smile on his face, and a magnetic personality. I will miss Richard very much and will work on keeping his legacy alive by helping our sci community stay interactively connected.


    Elie Younes

  4. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    Richard had helped me in my early stages of my brain injury in San Jose. When I moved to upstate New York, I thought of him and his teachings of "compensational skills". I just returned to San Jose and wanted to reunite with him and the group. I was shocked when I heard the news..terribly shocked. If it wasn't for Richard, I would never had started my own support group in New York. It was an honor to have known him.
    Gerard Thacher
    The Brain Injury Support Group Project (New York Chapter)


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