June 25, 2018
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Former Bangor star athlete Leroy Patterson succumbs to cancer

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Leroy Patterson made quite a first impression on the new Bangor High School football coach when he first came out for preseason practice at Garland Street Field before the start of the 1959 season.

“I knew I had a good one in Leroy,” said Gerry Hodge, who had just taken over the Bangor program after previously coaching at Mexico High School.

Hodge turned out to be a good judge of athletic talent, because Patterson went on to become one of the top athletes in Bangor High School history — starring in baseball, gaining All-Maine honors in basketball and earning a Division I scholarship in football.

“He was one of the finest all-around athletes I’ve ever seen,” said Hodge. “He was a wonderful young man to coach, I can surely say that. He was one of my all-time favorites.”

Patterson, who went on to have a 33-year career with the University of Maine police department, died Wednesday morning of cancer at his home in Winterport. He was 67.

“He was at the very top of a short list of the best athletes ever to play at Bangor High School,” said current Bangor High School athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine. “And as a person he was one of the very best I ever met.”

Patterson was a halfback and defensive back for the Bangor football team who twice was named a high school All-American for the Rams before graduating in 1962.

“As a young boy growing up in Bangor when he was playing, I went to all of his games because he was someone you wanted to see play,” said Vanidestine. “When you heard Leroy’s name called, you paid because he did some great things out there.”

Patterson also was a star outfielder on the Rams’ baseball team and a two-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine selection in basketball.

Patterson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward, earned second-team all-state honors as a junior for coach Red Barry’s club, then earned first-team recognition as a senior when he led Bangor to the 1962 Eastern Maine Class LL championship.

Patterson finished his basketball career with more than 1,000 points, a relatively rare feat at the time for players at the Class LL (now Class A) level.

“He was quite a scorer and rebounder,” said Hodge. “I think he really loved basketball more, but football was his best sport.

“He was as good an athlete as anybody here in Bangor.”

That football prowess led to an athletic scholarship from the University of Cincinnati, where in Patterson’s first year with the Bearcats he was named most valuable player of the freshman football team.

“[Old Town native] Dick MacPherson was his position coach at Cincinnati, and Dick said Leroy was one of the best recruits he ever had,” said Hodge. “I remember getting a call from Dick later, and he said, ‘If you have anyone else like him, send him out here.’

“Leroy had both speed and athleticism. He was very fast.”

Patterson’s career path eventually led him to the University of Maine, where he joined the police department in 1977 and had an impact on generations of college students with his calm, friendly demeanor.

“He touched a lot of lives at the University of Maine,” said current University of Maine police chief Roland Lacroix. “To this day people at football games will come up and ask if Leroy was still working with us because they remembered him from when they were students here.

“He was that father figure to so many people. He was laid back, but you knew if he said something, you better do it.”

Patterson remained on the university’s police force, eventually advancing to the rank of sergeant, until his retirement in 2010.

“He was a good employee who never, ever complained, at least to me,” said Lacroix. “And if you ever needed something, he’d be the first to step up.”

Patterson also was a fixture as part of the security patrol at most University of Maine home sports contests.

“He loved the University of Maine, and I think he loved the the University of Maine police department,” said Lacroix. “And he loved the Black Bears.”

Patterson also remained heavily involved with the Bangor sports scene, following his four children through their Bangor High School careers and through volunteer work with programs including the local YMCA and Bangor Youth Football.

“Leroy had a way of making making people feel better,” said former Bangor High School and Husson University football coach Gabby Price. “Everybody felt like they knew Leroy because he made them feel so comfortable around him.”

Patterson also officiated basketball, football and baseball games in the area for many years.

“He always was good with the kids,” said Smokey Lawrence of Bangor, a lifelong friend of Patterson’s and a fellow sports official. “He would teach the kids what they needed to work on, and he was well-liked by everybody.”

Lawrence and Patterson officiated basketball together mostly at the middle-school level for more than three decades, while Patterson also worked baseball and football games up through the high school ranks — and continued to officiate youth football games through last fall.

“Leroy was the type of person who was right there anytime anyone needed help,” Lawrence said.

Patterson was inducted into the Maine Sports Legends four years ago.

“The thing I’ll miss about him the most,” said Price, “was his quietness, his humility and his competitive spirit and passion. He had a great way of dealing with people of all different ages.”

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