John Fenimore Patterson, known as Jack, died at home in Wellfleet on Dec. 15, 2023 with his partner, Lynn Southey, son Matt, and nephew Glenn by his side. The cause was leukemia. He was 85.
Jack was born on March 20, 1938 in Westport, Conn. to the late William and Elizabeth Jane Breyer Patterson. He grew up in Westport and, in the summers, on Axeman Island, Ontario. His affinity for embracing the adventurous path led him to “incredible peaks, uncharted waters, and lifelong friends,” his family wrote in a memorial note. “Beloved for his big laugh, bigger heart, and huge appetite (for both life and cuisine), he and his marvelous stories are deeply missed.”
Jack graduated from Westport’s Staples High School in 1956 and attended Dartmouth College on a ROTC scholarship, where he played lacrosse and was a member of Phi Delta Chi. After graduating in 1960, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, specializing in aerial photography analysis and interpretation at Fort Carson, Colo., a place that offered the perfect setting for his passions for hiking and skiing.
Jack returned to the East Coast, started a family, and worked on Wall Street for more than a decade before turning to his love of carpentry. In the early 1980s he founded his own business, J.F. Patterson Building and Remodeling, and enjoyed working alongside his brother, Bob, for many years.
In 2002 he hiked the Appalachian Trail, where he became known as “Rafter Jack,” and then hit the Pacific Crest Trail to log more miles. When he retired to Wellfleet, he dove into Outer Cape life while remaining a devoted fan of UConn Huskies women’s basketball (and the Oregon Ducks).
Jack glowed with pride when he spoke about his daughter and son and loved exploring the landscapes of their adopted hometowns in Oregon and upstate New York (conveniently bordering the Thousand Islands). In later life, he wrote poems and memoirs about his beloved Axeman Island, became an avid vegetable gardener, and never missed an opportunity to hike, ski, snowshoe, fish, sail, and swim.
Jack is survived by his partner, Lynn Southey, of Wellfleet; daughter Breyer Barkman and son-in-law Rob Barkman; son Matt Patterson; sister Kathie Patterson; and a bevy of much-loved cousins, nieces, and nephews, including Barbara Boyd Ellis, Deane Patterson, Glenn Patterson, and Scott Ritson.
He was predeceased by his sister Betty Jane Patterson Evans and his brother, Robert Amber Patterson.
A celebration of Jack’s life will be held at PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet at noon on Thursday, Jan. 11. A family celebration will also take place this summer on Axeman Island. In lieu of flowers, donations may go to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Rafter Jack’s honor.