Pat Arthur

Pat Arthur

As the long awaited only child of a New Jersey insurance investigator and homemaker, Patricia Helen Stryker made her appearance on August 24, 1934. Her Mom, with whom Pat shares a weakness for green apples, never suspected she was in labor but believed she was experiencing a common belly ache and unexpectedly gave birth at home. Her Dad, who had stepped out of the house to run a short errand, arrived home to hear the landlord had already cut the cord! After her Mom began working in defense plants during the war and her Dad changed professions by joining the U.S. Navy, Pat was pretty much left alone during the day. Even now, she wishes she'd experienced a more traditional, stable childhood and upbringing that would have included siblings. She deeply misses those family connections others take for granted. By the time she was thirty, both parents were deceased.

When she was twelve, her Dad left the military, and moved his family to Redwood City, California. As a young girl, Pat dreamed of someday being an airline stewardess or joining the WAVES. Through the years she has traveled to Hawaii a few times and has visited Australia and Mexico, but now believes her window of opportunity has closed on future plans of seeing Europe.

Her years in California were not happy ones, and as a teenager, she left home, married and had a son. Unfortunately, this union didn't last, and Pat found herself as a single mother working in an electronics factory in California to support herself and her child. Throughout the years, Pat tried her hand at many types of employment which included her first job at sixteen as a cashier in a movie house for 65 cents an hour. She did farm work in Salinas, California, packed spices for Schilling-McCormick, sold shoes and waited tables before turning to bartending. She was employed at one time or another by many of the business names that are familiar to those of us who've lived here very long. They include Circle M, Comet Club and Club Eleven. She lists being a working mother as her greatest challenge and would encourage any young woman to gain sufficient skills to support herself and her kids, should the need arise.

In 1970, a friend encouraged Pat to come to Fairbanks so she packed up her two boys and traveled north. Pat was not prepared for the weather or the lack of big trees but managed to stick it out, even after her older son returned to California to finish high school before returning to join his Mom and brother. Pat has been blessed with one grand and one great-grand child as well as several step-grands through her older son's marriage. She is very fortunate to have them all, with the exception of the step-grands, l living in this area. She most definitely enjoys spending time with family.

In 1979, Pat purchased a major fixer-upper that the bank considered "unlivable." She maintains this dwelling on Runamuck consisted only of a roof and four walls but through her hard work, imagination and ready access to the 6 Mile Army Disposal Center, was able to transform this crude building into a home where she lived for several years.

In 1998, Pat bought river-front property off Nordale Road and began building her "forever home." She completed the project and moved into the house in 2003. Her one acre yard is a showplace for perennials and colorful flowers. She derives much pleasure from her 50' deck that features several pots of blooms. This is a miracle in itself, considering she is "freaked out by worms." Pat has generously shared her green thumb with us for the past four years by making sure the planters in front of the Center have remained colorful show-stoppers. If money were to suddenly drop from the sky, Pat would love to build a really nice big greenhouse. Clearly, gardening is one of her favorite activities….right up there with listening to country music, and eating Mexican and Asian food! In the winter months, Pat enjoys working on her stained glass projects. Although she claims she is still learning, her six years of classes and hands-on involvement speaks to her proficiency in this craft. Some may remember her entry in the first (and last) Senior Art Show held at the Center a few years ago.

Finally, on January 1, 2009, after a lifetime of hard work and some 35 years as a bartender, Pat retired. If there is One True Thing she has learned, it is: "Work hard, stay active and be kind to people."

With time on her hands and a desire to socialize outside of a work environment, she began her quest to find a place where she would be well received, could make friends and possibly volunteer her time. Pat knew she'd found the right group when she walked through the doors of Santa's Seniors in 2011 and was warmly greeted. Ever the introvert, Pat started associating with local seniors slowly, beginning with Strong Seniors, our exercise group. As she began to integrate herself with us, she became more involved with events and activities and is currently serving in her fourth year of an elected Board of Director's term. For the past two years, she has been their Vice President. Twice a week, she leads the exercise group, is a kitchen volunteer and works behind the scenes doing dishes, helping with potluck preparation, maintains order in the back storage area and shed and is generally considered to be a VERY active, essential member of our organization. Shanghai Rummy is a favorite of hers and she is an avid player on game days.

At the Fairbanks North Star Borough Senior Recognition Day this past May, the Office of the Mayor for the City of North Pole, issued a Proclamation awarding Pat Arthur with a "Lifetime Fitness Award." This celebrates her dedication to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and her personal commitment to seniors.

If Pat was to offer a challenge to our membership it would be: "Participate. Volunteer. Find something that suits you and get involved." Truer words were never uttered! As this year comes to a close, let us all make more of an effort to follow her advice.

Interview by Francie Cork 7/12/16. Photo by Santa's Seniors.