Welcome to the Archive of The Carrboro Citizen Logo Image

Obituary – Isabel Patterson Eaton

Isabel Patterson (Pat) Eaton died on Sunday, November 11, 2007 at her home in Chapel Hill. For those who knew her, Pat was a most engaging woman – even when her words were sharp and her stage whispers reached the balcony. Pat had a deep vein of tenderness that could be overshadowed by her sometimes cranky, complaining manner. But, when her shy smile emerged and her voice softened, Pat warmed one’s heart with  her appreciation for the care and attention shown her.

Pat loved – especially – mashed potatoes, a well-preserved salmon filet, wonderful literature, art of the modern era. With pleasure and satisfaction she had tended, when able, a lush garden of roses, azaleas and dogwoods. Gathering with friends who shared her interests and were amused by her repartee was, for Pat, the essence of refined social engagement.

Together in marriage from the 1940s until 2005, Pat supported her late husband, Charles Edward Eaton, in his pursuits as a poet, writer and teacher. From the first she managed his manuscripts and correspondence, edited his work, handled publication details and finally oversaw the depositing of his papers in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina. For many years they lived an orderly life of winters in Chapel Hill and summers in Woodstock, Connecticut. Frequently they went to Cape Cod to visit with artist friends – especially Karl Knaths whose work they collected extensively.

Mr. and Mrs. Eaton always had a dog and sometimes a cat or two. Pat, a storyteller of wit and catchy phrasing, recounted the adventures of traveling with their animals. One of her favorite stories was about the leaving of “Willie” behind – most accidentally – at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. In those days the Shoreham was closely affiliated with American Airlines. From her first call to inquire about the missing cat until he was delivered several days later, Pat told of hotel and airline personnel solicitously tending to Willie’s diet and other needs. When he finally arrived home, on Christmas Eve, Willie was nicely fitted into an AA carrying case – topped with a huge red satin bow.

Pat died on Armistice Day – another throwback to the memories of her youth. Her father, who had wished to be a part of WWI, never made it to Europe before the conflict was over.

However, for a decade or so after hostilities ceased, he and friends maintained an army-style bivouac in the woods up river from Pittsburgh, where Pat grew up. He took Pat and her brother and sister there to learn about managing in the out-of-doors. Apparently their mother was not too keen on this venture. She and the family butler would descend on the primitive setting with well-fitted picnic baskets to save the campers from trench rations.

Isabel never left anyone in doubt about her preferences and things that mattered to her.

Even those who first met Pat in her later life were influenced by the force of her personality, which was packaged in a diminutive lady. Her magnetism prevailed and folks attempted to please her – sometimes with amazing success, while on other occasions nothing could reach the lonely place of disappointment that Pat shared with all others who cross the earth.

Mrs. Eaton leaves behind nieces and nephews, by blood and by marriage, and their progeny of two or more generations. She had family and friends who visited regularly and were at Pat’s side even in her final hours. Since 2004, a team of aides responsibly saw to Mrs. Eaton’s care. The house and grounds have been looked after by folks loyal to her.

UNC Hospice, in the last months of Mrs. Eaton’s life, provided special support.

For those who would like to remember Isabel Eaton, the family suggests donations to UNC Hospice, P.O. Box 1077, Pittsboro, NC 27312. Or, the Ackland Art Museum, where the Eaton art collection has been donated: Ackland, UNC, CB# 3400, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3400. Or, the Wilson Library, repository of Mr. Eaton’s papers which Pat carefully catalogued for scholarly use: Wilson, UNC, CB# 3930, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-8890.

Burial will be held at Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. A graveside service will be held there on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 2:00 p.m.

Comments are closed.