Published in The Regional News, September 2, 2015
Community Character is a monthly column featuring a community member who lives or works in Palos Heights, Palos Park, or Orland Park. Community characters are individuals who strive to embody the qualities of integrity, competence, generosity, tolerance, compassion, strength and perseverance – with a touch of humility. Although not necessarily at the stage of enlightenment, they contribute in some way, perhaps quietly, to the Palos-Orland community.
Although Patricia Bailey claims no shared ancestry with George Bailey, the leading character in the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, she certainly resembles him in many ways. Like George, she embodies all the qualities of a ‘community character’, particularly integrity, generosity and dedication to community. After a thirty-year career as a public school teacher, she embarked on a volunteer career that is even more ambitious. She enthusiastically promotes events and philanthropic activities for many of the prominent organizations in the Palos-Orland Community, including the Palos Heights Garden Club, the Palos Park Woman’s Club, the Palos Heights Woman’s Club, The Palos Heights Farmers Market, Lake Katherine, and High School District 230 Foundation. And she manages her stress while managing all these activities.
Patt, as she prefers to be called, grew up in Little Flower Parish on the South Side of Chicago. Her parents, both self-employed bookkeepers, instilled their work ethic by their example. Their motto was “If you want something, you have to work for it . . . then try and find it at a good price.” Just as George Bailey worked at a pharmacy during high school, Patt worked at a down town bank during her senior year in high school. She traveled to her part-time job at Northern Trust Bank in the Chicago Loop by bus. Typically she arrived home near 10 p.m. after negotiating long stretches of waiting for city buses and walking to bus stops.
During the 1960s when most of her peers merely admired the Beatles, Patt, organized The Beatles Fan Club in Chicago along with her two friends. The fan club, which even had a newsletter, enjoyed some success for a while. However, the club’s demands became too much on top of school and part-time jobs, so it disbanded. The fan club’s lingering claim to fame was that Patt and her friends actually spoke to Ringo Starr’s mother when they called his home in England from a payphone.
Not many women of Patt’s generation were fortunate enough to attend college. Those few were usually limited to two choices of majors, nursing or teaching. Patt chose teaching because she loved the whole educational environment. She also believed that teaching was a good occupation for a woman who wanted to have a family.
Just as George Bailey diligently pursued his career at the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan, Patt performed her duties as a Chicago Public School teacher with expertise. After two years of teaching fourth grade and five years of teaching sixth grade, she was pulled from the classroom and put into a lab setting. During this time she accepted the assignment of writing and updating “tech plans” which allowed the school to qualify for over $100,000 in technology grants. While in this capacity for almost 30 years, she developed and maintained te school’s first website.
When asked why she stayed in teaching, she replied, “I stayed because I loved working with children. There’s nothing like seeing a child comprehend and improve. Since I moved from a classroom to a pull-out setting to a computer lab, I was able to be stimulated with all the technological changes. I also ran the Academic Bowl with another one of our teachers and for years we loved seeing our kids beat other schools in the competition. My sister always said I was for the underdog.”
Even after retirement, Patt keeps just as busy, but many of her activities focus on easing stress. One of her hobbies is tending the 275 varieties of hosta plants in her garden at her charming Palos Park home. She also photographs fundraising events, develops websites, creates Facebook pages and prepares membership email lists for the many community organizations to which she belongs. In her capacity as Outreach Coordinator at Wellbeing MD, she promoted Dr. John Principe’s philosophy of “Food is medicine and medicine is food.” She also introduced his practice to Palos Heights TV Channel 4, The Farmers Market in Palos Heights and various community organizations.
One of Patt’s cherished accomplishments is her annual summer solstice party, a spirituality festival held in her home garden, which she dubbed her “eclectic sanctuary”. Since 2002, the festival has featured a spiritual theme by which she strives to live for the preceding year. Past themes have included, being happy and positive, rainbows, and journey, all themes aimed at relieving stress.
In keeping with her guiding philosophy that “we are all one”, Patt believes that we only need a few things in life – connection with God, love of family and friends, connection with nature and solitude. Patt strives to be positive. She doesn’t want negativity to drain energy from a situation. She would rather look at the glass as being almost full. Other prized values include: personal empowerment, cooperation, honesty, laughing at mistakes before trying again and apologizing when appropriate and the Golden Rule. One of her unique strengths is her ability to see and create connections among a diversity of people, organizations and events.
As if she weren’t busy enough, Patt also helps to promote the band, The Chicago Kingsnakes, for which her husband, Mike Bailey, performs on bass and vocals. The band, whose genre is described as Chicago Blues, recently released their tenth CD, “Blue Mosaic.” Along with their captivating performances at events such as Taste of Orland and the Lakeside Pig Roast II, The Chicago Kingsnakes play regularly at local venues such as Ed and Joe’s Pizza in Tinley Park.
When George Bailey’s family bank and loan was in crisis, his friends poured out support and assistance. Similarly, Patt’s friends offered extensive assistance after she injured her ankle and tibia. Devoted friends from the Palos Heights Garden Club drove her to physical therapy on a regular basis. Other friends prepared meals and offered moral support during this difficult trial.
So what would the Palos Heights and Palos Park communities thrive had Patricia Bailey never been born? We have no angel like Clarence to show us the likes of Pottersville. We cannot see how the Palos communities would be in an alternative reality. There is no way to know if the communities would deteriorate into flashy materialism, moral decay, petty power and shamelss greed. However, there Is no doubt that there would be many fewer photos, many fewer hosta plants, many fewer parties, many fewer bursts of laughter, many fewer cat admirers, many fewer internet connections, many fewer people connections, many fewer acts of fairness and kindness, many fewer nutrition devotees and one fewer Community Character. Just like George, Patt Bailey can truly claim, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”