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An International Family

One of the newer residents at Carillon of Wake Forest, Patricia Tyson grew up during World War II in England, moved to America in her late 20s, and enrolled in college in her mid-40s.

Over the years, she also hobnobbed with such Hollywood stars as Jackie Gleason, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Fernando Lamas.

After her children were grown up, her career featured teaching journalism at Rosemont College and San Diego State University. She did not have time to write herself because she was busy with classes, so in 2016, at the age of 85, Patricia penned Beloved Statue: A Different Love Story.

The novel is about a woman with a terminal illness. She tries to persuade a good friend to marry her son who was paralyzed in the car accident that also cost him his fiancée.

“I had the idea in my head for years,” Patricia says. “I can’t even remember what put it there. Maybe something I had read about. When you think about grief, I thought that might make a good story—with a few embellishments.”

Patricia derived a lot of satisfaction from getting the story on paper. She even thinks it would make a wonderful movie.

“Just getting it done was the most rewarding thing about it,” she says. “I spent all my time teaching for lots of years, so I never could write before. It was a fun affair putting it together.”

Of course, a producer with a keen eye for interesting stories might want to film a movie about Patricia. She was born in the English coastal town of Ipswich, about 80 miles northeast of London. Although she had an older sister and brother, she felt like an only child because her siblings were 21 and 17, respectively, when she came along.

Her mother was a fantastic cook, which reflected the background of her family, as her mother’s grandmother worked in the kitchen of Queen Victoria, whose reign lasted from 1837 until 1901.

Patricia’s father worked for Shell Petroleum, he took on great strategic importance when World War II erupted when Patricia was eight years old. Manning the petroleum pumps on an airfield, her father helped refuel American fighter planes.

She recalls those war days as a bit strange. Patricia and her classmates had no appreciation for the seriousness of bombs dropping on their homeland. They were just happy whenever air raid sirens delayed the start of the next school day.

“We’d say, ‘Let’s hope the air raid sirens sound at 10 o’clock, so we can go to school an hour later,’” she says with a chuckle.

Later, she enrolled in a girls’ school. After graduation she fell in love with an employee at the American embassy in London, which is how she ended up in California. Patricia met her second husband, John Tyson, at a large advertising agency in Chicago.

John later became the Vice President of Advertising for a major beverage manufacturer. His job included periodic travels to Los Angeles, where he and Patricia met some of the stars featured in the company’s commercials. Sometimes, they even got clothing worn on movie sets. Patricia once obtained a velvet dinner jacket worn by famed actor David Niven, which she passed along to a friend.

“Being in touch with celebrities is fun in one way, but it’s more fun for friends and the people we talk to,” Patricia says. “It was a great life, and I had a great time.”

The most enduring memories of her marriage to John, who passed away 13 years ago, are her children: son, William, and daughter, Penelope, and the five grandchildren who followed.

With her son’s wife from Mexico, her daughter’s two kids coming from China, and Patricia’s British heritage, she says they are an international family. And being with family is her definition of “happiness.”

“Our daughter lives a few miles away, and I see her at least once a week,” Patricia says. “They come pick me up and take me out for dinner or take me to their house. I enjoy that. I have a picture of myself, my daughter and two granddaughters sitting in the roots of a huge redwood tree in California. I found such a fascinating life in this country.”

Her comments are a good reminder that all of us should appreciate what we have.

Posted in Sage Stories on June 6, 2019

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