Val Patterson, a 59-year-old man who died on July 10 from throat cancer, had bogus academic credentials and was also a thief unbeknownst to his family and friends. Patterson wrote his own obituary, in the first person, last fall. It was full of grammatical errors and was published in the Salt Lake Tribune.
The obituary began with Patterson discussing his passion for science and his love for his wife. The obituary takes a very interesting turn after the opening paragraph though. Patterson wrote, “As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from View Drive Inn back in June, 1971.”
The secret about the safe theft is not the only one that Patterson reveals in his obituary. He made sure everyone knew that the Ph.D. he supposedly earned from the University of Utah was in fact not real. A worker in an office at the school made an error that sent Patterson a diploma in the mail by mistake. In fact, Patterson never completed enough schooling to acquire an undergraduate degree and he wrote that he “never did even learn what the letters ‘PhD’ even stood for.”
Patterson made sure he noted that his lack of an education did not stand in the way of his career success. “For all the Electronic Engineers I have worked with,” Patterson wrote, “I’m sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well.” Patterson went on to admit that he was ‘banned for life’ from Sea World San Diego and Disneyland but did not mention why he was banned. Patterson’s wife of 33 years, Mary Jane, said that everything written in the obituary was true. The obituary was not just a confessional for Patterson but also an outlet for him to share his love for his wife and how he lived a full life.
“I enjoyed one good life. [I] traveled to every place on earth that I ever wanted to go. Had every job that I wanted to have. Learned all that I wanted to learn. Fixed everything I wanted to fix. Eaten everything I wanted to eat.”
The only regret that Patterson mentioned was that he smoked cigarettes, which led to his development of throat cancer.
“My pain is enormous, but it pales in comparison to watching my wife feel my pain as she lovingly cares for and comforts me.”
Patterson concluded his obituary with a piece of advice for those who knew him and those who did not, “If you want to live forever, then don’t stop breathing, like I did.”