If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I made a recent trip to Florida. My last day was in Sarasota on a Sunday and since I didn’t have a church to attend, I decided to do something different. The day before, driving up from Naples on I -75, I noticed a sign that said “Sarasota National Cemetery.” After an early breakfast, I drove south to state road 72 and turned east for four miles and found the cemetery.
The cemetery is new, the 295 acres being purchased in 2007, and should serve veterans’ needs for the next 50 years. As I entered the grounds to my left was a large structure of some kind so that was my first stop. It was an amphitheater, seating almost 3,000 and covered by a glass roof of some 20,800 sq. ft. consisting of 792 glass panels. The rostrum is also glass covered and is almost the size of two tennis courts. It can seat a 55-piece orchestra. You can click here for pictures and more information.
Off to one side is a display that traces the history of the glass covered theater. The first display shows a picture of the Chicago Tribune building in 1855 and mentions Joseph Medill. The next is a photograph of President Lincoln because he authorized the purchase of grounds for a national cemetery in 1862. The next is dated 1914 and says: “Medill’s grandsons Col. Robert McCormick and Capt. Joseph Medill Patterson served in U.S. armed forces during World War I. The next display is dated 1944 and is a picture of Medill’s great grandson, James J. Patterson, a graduate of West Point who achieved the rank of captain. The final display is dated 1997 and shows a picture of James J. Patterson and his wife, Dorothy Clarke Patterson, who created the Patterson Foundation that erected the glass covered amphitheater.
Medill, McCormick, and Patterson all names that can be traced back to Chicago and then through northern Ireland to Scotland. This is a complicated story and difficult to tell the story of so many people. This is just a summary. I didn’t even get to the McCormick side of the family.
Joseph Medill married Katherine Patrick on September 2, 1852, and the marriage produced three daughters: Katherine, Elinor and Josephine.
Katherine, the oldest, married Robert S. McCormick who served as our ambassador to Austria, Russia, France and England. He was also the Special Commissioner from Great Britain to the Worlds Columbian Exposition in 1893. They had two sons: Joseph Medill McCormick and Robert Rutherford McCormick.
Elinor, married Robert W. Patterson, Jr. in 1878. (His father was the Reverend Mr. Patterson, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago.) The two had met while teaching Sunday School in a mission church. After graduation from Yale, he began working as a reporter for the Chicago Times and later worked at the Interior. He began working for the Tribune shortly before the great fire in 1871. When Joseph Medill died, Patterson became editor-in-chief of the Chicago Tribune.
They had two children, Joseph Medill Patterson and Elinor Josephine Medill “Cissy” Patterson. Joseph became the president of the New York Daily News and vice president of the Chicago Tribune.
He also had a very complicated life including the birth a son, James Joseph Patterson, born in France. He was also the father of Alicia Patterson, who founded and edited Newsday.
His sister, Elinor Josephine Medill Patterson, always known as “Cissy” was born in Chicago on November 7, 1884. She was educated at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut. It’s a long and complicated story which included a marriage to a Russian count, the birth of a daughter and finally a divorce which took thirteen years. After that she lived for a time in Lake Forest, Illinois, before moving on to Washington, D.C. She was one of the first women to own a major newspaper, the Washington Times-Herald. She died in 1948.
James Joseph Patterson, the great-grandson of Joseph Medill, was raised in Ossining, New York. He graduated from West Point in 1944 and soon after married Dorothy Marie Clarke. (Her father was a prison guard at Sing Sing with 14 siblings.) They met in grade school. After his military career, he joined the Daily News as a reporter in Washington, D.C. In 1958, he became vice president.
Mr. and Mrs. James Joseph Patterson retired to Longboat Key, Florida, where he died on June 24, 1992. Dorothy Clark Patterson died September 20, 2007. Five years after the death of her husband she created the Patterson Foundation with a gift of $5 million. Her estate of an estimated $225 million was added to the Foundation in 2008. She left few guidelines as to how the Foundation should operate. The Foundation built and maintains the amphitheater which is used for concerts and programs. Last year, the Army band held a concert there which was open to the public. Interesting family and I hope I have all the facts correct.
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Wayne Rethfordwrethford@comcast.net, President Emeritus
June 6, 2015 - This is the last meeting until September. Since it falls on D-Day, we should do something about the invasion. It may be a combination of several power point presentations but concentrate on “Bloody Omaha Beach.”
Highland Games - June 19-20. Held on the grounds of Hamilton Lakes, Itasca, Illinois, located at I-290 and Thorndale Avenue. For additional information click here.