click here to return to the Class of 1954 homepage

MA writing guidelines

self-written MA format

NOK approval form

funeral attendee form

























Mercer H. Patterson

Mercer H. Patterson

No. 20089 10 March 1929 - 13 July 1980

Died: Rome, Italy
Buried: Interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Gulfport MS

MERCER HOWELL PATTERSON was born in Gulfport, MS, and enjoyed a childhood richly abundant with outdoor activities–hunting, fishing, swimming at the beach–and with music. His parents were accomplished musicians who encouraged “Pat” with instruction on a variety of instruments. He sustained that interest throughout his life, playing the bass fiddle in dance bands and the baritone horn in high school and college marching bands (notably in LSU’s famous halftime ensemble). He also performed as a skilled amateur cellist. Pat joined the Naval Reserve while in college, and when low finances obliged him to leave school temporarily, he enlisted on active duty with the Air Force. Finding military life to his liking and judging it to have good potential for a worthy profession, he took the competitive entrance exam for West Point, won an appointment, and was assigned to the USMA Preparatory School.

During Pat’s Yearling summer at West Point, he proposed to Peggy Shea, a hometown girl he had met while on leave. She visited Pat frequently at West Point and on cadet trips and weekends. In fact, she was a popular auxiliary member of the so-called “Kappa Dos Fraternity,” the unofficial society of Pat’s classmates in Company K-2. Being older and more mature than most of his classmates, though as fun-loving as any, Pat was a steadying influence on Kappa Dos revels. Pat and Peggy were the very first couple in the Class of ’54 married in the Cadet Chapel after graduation.

Following Airborne and Ranger training, Pat served with the 9th Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, WA, and in Alaska; as a staff officer and company commander at Ft. Benning, GA; with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Ft. Bragg, NC; and again as a company commander in Korea. I also was stationed in Korea that year and enjoyed a week’s TDY on Pat’s compound, where I was impressed by how much his officers and soldiers respected and liked him. Returning stateside, Pat spent three years training cadets at the Citadel in Charleston, SC.

Next, Pat went to Viet Nam, serving as a battalion executive officer in the 4th Infantry Division. Pat was given command of a task force holding a vital position in the jungle highlands west of Dak To. When the task force’s position came under ground assault and bombardment, he rallied his troops to resist the attack and then led a successful counterattack, bringing supporting artillery fires dangerously close to his own lines. Seriously wounded during the operation, he was subsequently awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. After recovering from his wounds and attending the Command and General Staff College, he served in the Pentagon as a staff officer for the assistant chief of staff for force development; and then as a research and development director with the Army Materiel Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, an outdoor activity he most enjoyed.

Pat’s final tour of duty was with Southern North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Naples, Italy. Here, in what Peggy remembers as their “dream assignment,” they lived in a hillside villa with a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean that included the fabled Isle of Capri and celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary on a memorable cruise. Peggy and Pat found great professional and personal satisfaction there. They worked and socialized with officers and families of other nationalities, and when they left, his boss described Pat as “determined and unflappable” and Peggy as “a valued member of the international community.”

After completing their memorable tour in Italy, with Pat approaching 30 years of service, they headed for a final assignment at Ft. Gordon, GA. Their three children now grown and on their individual life paths, Pat and Peggy planned to return to the beautiful Gulf Coast for retirement. In the Rome airport, just prior to boarding their plane for the States, Pat was stricken with a fatal heart attack. Peggy eventually took him home, and he rests there today among his forebears. Beside his grave, there is a place for the woman who sustained him throughout his career of service to our country.

Peggy has remarried, as Pat, in his characteristically unselfish and loving way would have wanted her to do, and lives with her husband, a physician, in Memphis, TN. She keeps current with the Class of ’54 and was a lively participant in our 40th, 45th, and 50th reunions. Their children have led fulfilling lives: Teresa in the insurance business, Linda pursuing her family’s talent in music, and young Pat with the Justice Department. Peggy has three grandchildren, who are all doing well in school.

There can be no greater testimony to this good man’s life than that his widow and children still today refer to their husband and father as “our hero.”  

A Kappa Dos classmate

Originally published in TAPS JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2006

class of 1954 home «    “grip hands” home «    eulogies «