Pat Conlin has died, and the large circle in which she walked has lost an ever-present source of generosity, compassion, understanding, love, encouragement, and affirmation. Our Lord and Savior supplied these gifts and asked her to share them, and she did . . . constantly, repeatedly, and gleefully, never shirking any personal sacrifice needed in answer to the Lord’s call until He called her home on January 12, 2021, at age 96. No obituary could ever capture the warmth and depth of this woman, and it seems almost hollow to mark her passing with dates and places, and with names of her progeny. But we hope that in reading this you will be prompted to recall your interactions with her, be warmed by the memory, and be inspired to share with others whatever you received or learned from her. You will honor her if you will simply pass it on in her memory.
Pat Conlin was born Patricia Joan Scofield on December 9, 1924 in Glenwood, MN, the first of four children born of Dorothy Ann and Harold Scofield. The family moved to Williston, ND in 1926, her father following a job offer with Nash Finch, a food-service company. She lived there until she was a teen, when her family moved to Havre, Montana during the Great Depression to own and operate the Grand Hotel there. After a few years there, the family moved to Los Angeles, CA, on the recommendations of doctors who thought Pat’s younger brother, “HB” (Harold Barrington III), who suffered from arthritis, would benefit from a warmer climate. Her parents planted her Catholic faith which she cultivated and observed for the rest of her life. She was particularly close to her only sister, Mary Ann, who gave her life to God as a Sister of Mercy. Pat considered it an honor and a gift to have a “religious” in the family.
It was in Los Angeles that Pat encountered a handsome Navy enlisted man named Clem Conlin. He came to LA from Williston after Pearl Harbor to serve in the Pacific in WWII, leaving behind a furniture and hardware business Clem and his father Ed had started in Williston in 1937. The Scofield family had known the Conlin family when both lived in Williston, and when Clem was on his way to war, he was invited to stay with the Scofield family at their home in LA. Though she hardly remembered Clem from their days in Williston (Clem was nearly 6 years older), Pat fell in love with Clem, and he with her. Pat was in nursing school in 1945 when word came that Clem had suffered injuries from a kamikaze strike on his aircraft carrier and was heading to port. It was the Spring of 1945, and though the war in Europe was winding down, the Pacific theatre was still hot. In the last of his many love letters during military service, Clem gave an ultimatum to Pat: marry me now, or never. Despite her parents’ worries given the ongoing war, Pat accepted Clem’s proposal, dropped out of nursing school (nursing students were not allowed to marry), and the two were married in LA on June 16, 1945.
Within a year, the couple was living in Williston, Clem returning to his business with his dad, and Pat preparing their apartment for children. They were blessed with the birth of Mike in May 1946. Nine more children would follow. The family moved into the home on First Ave West in Williston in 1947, where Pat raised all her children, and where she continued to live for 40 years following the premature death of her beloved Clem in 1980. Living across the street from Pat, her son Tim and daughter-in-law Liz provided companionship and help to Pat throughout those 40 years. Only in October 2020 did she move to Niceville, FL to live with her daughter Colleen Miller and Colleen’s husband Mike, trading ND winters for Florida sunshine. They continued to care for Pat in their home even after she tested positive for Covid, and were at her side, along with Pat’s oldest son Mike, and daughter Maureen, to provide Pat comfort and peace in her final days and hours.
There are too many landmarks in Pat’s life to list here, but a few deserve mention. Pat’s 35-year marriage to Clem was marked by deep, reciprocal love and sacrifice, and deep faith, which has served as an example to their children and grandchildren—and other couples, no doubt. Their home was open to all, and served as a place of joy and celebration and fun for anyone visiting. Despite a full house, they invited two disadvantaged girls from Chicago to spend a summer in their home. They welcomed a foreign exchange high-school student from Belgium. They purchased one of the first motor homes in the 1960s, dubbed it Quo Vadis (“Where are you going”), and filled it with family and friends as it transported them to ski resorts, the World’s Fair, Lake Sakakawea, and beyond. And Pat took countless, last-minute calls from Clem to prepare for the arrival of some visitor to Williston who needed hospitality and a meal. The food was always good, and the company better. Their division of labor was common for the time: Clem the breadwinner running Conlin’s Furniture, and Pat the homemaker, a role she embraced and in which she excelled. Yes, laundry and meals and transportation were important, but the much bigger gift was her constant love and affirmation she showered on her children.
Even while running a busy household, Pat was active in community service. She served on the Hospital Auxiliary, just last summer being honored for her lifetime service. She helped organize parent volunteers for the Williston Swim Team. She volunteered often to help run events and programs at St. Joseph’s parish in Williston, where she worshiped for 75 years. And without request or any formal program, she delivered countless meals to those suffering special needs, whether on account of poverty, the loss of a loved one, or loneliness. She served as a willing listener to troubled souls all her life.
One of her few indulgences was Bridge. There, with her many friends, she exhibited a fiery competitive spirit, and skill as well. Turns out she preferred winning to losing. Who knew.
Pat’s parents and siblings pre-deceased her.
Pat also lost three of her children prematurely: Mary Pat (daughter Jen Roy), from multiple sclerosis; Dennis (Rena) from a heart attack in 2008; and Tracy, from injuries suffered in a car crash in 1980. Pat is survived by son Mike, Bismarck ND; daughter Kitty (Don Speranza), Skamokawa, WA; daughter Maureen (Tim Hamilton), Huntsville, UT; son Tim (Liz), Williston ND; son Tom (Kathe Marron), Golden Valley, MN; daughter Colleen (Mikel Miller), Niceville FL; daughter Jan (Gene Goetz), Minneapolis, MN. She is also survived by 31 grandchildren, 54 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild, spread all across the US and Chile, and all of whom loved “Grandma Pat” immensely.
The family hopes for a memorial service and burial in Williston sometime in 2021. A funeral mass will be livestreamed from Holy Name of Jesus Church, Niceville FL, on Thursday, January 14, at 3pm CST, preceded by a Holy Rosary. If you wish a monetary memorial, we recommend donations to:
Mercy Beyond Borders, founded by a dear friend of Pat’s beloved sister, Mary Ann: www.mercybeyondborders.org. Please earmark any MBB donation to the Pat Conlin Family Scholarship Foundation, which Pat founded to endow MBB. MBB serves girls and young women in South Sudan and Haiti with education and entrepreneurial mentoring and assistance.
God’s Child Project, Bismarck ND.https://godschild.org/
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