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Friends recall Sewickley woman's passion

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Dawn Patterson poses with a family photo inside her Sewickley home on Feb. 28. She died April 24 of stage IVa rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

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In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made in Dawn Patterson’s memory on

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By Joanne Barron
Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

Before Dawn Patterson died from a rare form of cancer Wednesday, April 24, 2013, she had said she was “so grateful that people have been so kind throughout the entire process.”

A memorial service for Mrs. Patterson, of Sewickley, who said in an article that appeared March 7 in the Sewickley Herald that it was “amazing” the amount of support she and her family received during her illness, was held Saturday at Sewickley United Methodist Church.

Mrs. Patterson died April 24. She was 44.

“A few weeks back, Dawn told her husband that she was ‘tired' and wanted to see her family,” said friend Barbara Cooley Thaw.

“Within 30 hours, I had 12 people arrive at my house; 10 of them came from the Dominican Republic.”

Mrs. Patterson's niece, the niece's husband and their eight children are missionaries there.

“That was typical. Dawn sparked a devotion that was displayed at her overflowing memorial service, at the dozens and dozens of meals that were provided, and by the cards and checks that continued to flock in each week,” she said.

Thaw, who set up a CaringBridge website that provided information on Mrs. Patterson's prognosis and how people could help, said she would like to thank the multitudes of folks who contributed in one way, shape or form.

Friend Anna Torrance, who helped organize donations of meals for the family, said from the day Mrs. Patterson was diagnosed, she was focused on her family — their protection and support.

“Never was she discouraged or dispirited. Her unyielding faith in God and love for her husband and children were so inspiring,” she said.

Mrs. Patterson, who had been an avid runner, said she had had a goal to run a 5K race in Pittsburgh this month, when she had expected her chemotherapy to be completed.

She had been involved in community organizations, such as Friends of the Sewickley Public Library and the Union Aid Society.

Mrs. Patterson practiced law as an attorney for the PNC Bank Wealth Management Division and was a member of Triumph Baptist Church.

Mildred Nash, who met Mrs. Patterson at church, said when she learned her friend had three children and was going to law school at the University of Pittsburgh, she thought it was “remarkable.”

She also said Mrs. Patterson was a person who “truly loved the Lord,” and when she danced with a group of women at the church, “It was just so beautiful.

“You go through life and meet people who stand out, and she was one of those people. She was someone you never forget,” she said.

“For someone to be in the community for such a short amount of time and to have affected that many people, that's outstanding. That says an awful lot.”

Born Jan. 28, 1969, in New Jersey, Mrs. Patterson was the daughter of Rosetta (Williams) Caldwell and the late Harold Generals.

In addition to her mother, she is survived by her husband, Robert Patterson Jr., her children, Bianca Smith, Rachel Smith and Robert Patterson III; sisters Linda Caldwell, Rosalind (Arthur) Stanley and Debra, Peninna, Tocquinna and Twilah Generals; brothers, Kenneth (Sharon) Caldwell and Walter (Loretta) Caldwell; and a host of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.

In addition to her father, she was preceded in death by her brother, Harold Caldwell.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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