Dreams turned to reality late in life for local man
Early in life, Harry Patten dreamed of being a minister.
And, as the years went by, Patten put the idea of full-time religious work on the back burner.
Helping his family and other commitments, including learning carpentry skills, were important.
As a young man, he learned the trade from his father, a carpenter, builder and inventor.
The family first called Utah, then North Hollywood, Calif., home.
The Depression required the family to move about the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Patten attended church regularly, but his dad did not.
Regardless, his parents encouraged him and his three brothers to attend Sunday School and church.
And, at 95, Patten still talks of the high moral standards his parents set for him and his brothers.
It was at a Los Angeles church that two sisters recognized Patten’s potential ministerial talent and wanted to send him to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Bible College.
Patten was flattered but declined, as he had other commitments.
The Depression was on, and Patten figured his dad could use his help.
He received a second calling 36 years later, while in a different state and under trying circumstances.
It was October of 1974, when roof trusses fell on him while he was part of a crew building Marshalltown’s Center Street Baptist Church.
Patten had told the foreman he was concerned about the trusses.
His concern became reality when a “big wind came up and the trusses gave way like a dominoes” Patten said. “They made a horrible noise.”
His coworkers had gone on break, so Patten was the only one in harm’s way.
He recalled hearing a voice telling him before the wind came: “Get on your hard hat Harry and kneel down.”
Patten was spared from death, but suffered crushed ribs and other injuries.
He was off work and partially disabled for a long time.
The accident ended his career as a full-time carpenter.
But he left a legacy of having built many houses in the state, and when active, was known locally for his fine craftsmanship as a master cabinetmaker and home remodeler.
But if he felt despair after the accident, it didn’t show then or now, according to daughters Cathi Martin, of Marshalltown, and Cherie Dargan, of Waterloo.
He took correspondence courses from Berean School of the Bible and later, while approaching 60, became a full-fledged minister.
And to some, it might have been the cruelest of ironies, turning to the ministry after being injured on the job building a church.
But to Patten, it was a perfect example of one door closing and another opening.
He had conquered a life-changing situation 23 years previously, when cancer invaded an eye, resulting in its removal.
It was replaced with an artificial one, still in place, and not noticeable unless Patten points it out.
He had to relearn to drive and use his tools. But he mastered all.
Patten will answer to the Rev. Patten or Harry, but his favorite salutation appears to be Chaplain Patten. And for good reason.
He served as chaplain at the Iowa Veterans Home from 1978 to 2001. He was honored as a volunteer, having donated 4,500 hours of service and was recognized by the commandant.
When not at IVH, Patten and his first wife Charlotte visited and ministered to inmates at the Marshall County Jail.
They also ministered to county and federal inmates in Arizona, where he and Charlotte vacationed periodically.
Additionally, the couple was active in the Assemblies of God Church in Marshalltown.
Patten lives at Southridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
His second wife, Hazel, passed away in 2009.
For a time Patten continued to minister to inmates, corresponding with many he had met in jail.
He said he reads the Times-Republican for local and national news. He has submitted letters to the editor and poetry.
“It has been dad’s deep faith which has kept him going after the loss of his eye, the construction accident and the death of two spouses,” said Martin. “He prays and reads the Bible daily. He loves to share his faith with others.”
His two favorite Bible verses are Daniel 12:2 and Matthew 7:13.
Attaining everlasting life is at the core of both.
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who chose that way,” he said, quoting from Matthew 7:13
Both Cathi and Cherie said they believe their dad has left a lasting mark, having passed on the passion for his faith to them and their families.