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Kerr Patterson – say family and friends – was a blend of many and varied things
and traits that spoke to her essence and influenced so many people.
was a doting mother and grandmother, pianist, poet, mentor, world traveler, avid
church worker, decorated teacher, and an instructional supervisor for the
legacy Memphis City Schools, where she retired in 2011 after 36 years of
Judith Kerr Patterson
Patterson was also married to the late Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr., who served as
chairman of the international Church of God in Christ’s General Assembly and
became the first African American to serve as mayor of Memphis when he stepped
in as interim in 1982.
Patterson died March 11 following a short illness. She was 63.
Linda Kerr Adkins and Brenda Kerr Johnson fought off grief to express their
loss, what their “big sister” meant to them, and to place in context her
enduring legacy. The trio had been inseparable until Mrs. Patterson’s death.
“My sister was an awesome and amazing
individual,” said Adkins, wife of Apostle William A. “Bill” Adkins Jr., senior pastor
of Greater Imani Church, The Cathedral of Faith. Mrs. Patterson was a founding
Adkins viewed Mrs. Patterson more like a sister than a sister-in-law. “We hit
it off as brother and sister,” he said. “She helped raise our children and we
helped raise her children. She was just a wonderful woman.”
also said she was “outstanding,” her smile infectious.
Dotson Jr., one of Mrs. Patterson’s three children, said he’d never met a woman
who was so sweet and giving, who wanted to make sure that everybody was OK.
“I tried to raise my two children (Phillip and
Brice) the way she raised me,” said Dotson, 38.
found solace looking back over her sister’s life and recalling their bond.
would always get together and have lunch, reminisce and talk about old times
and the future,” she said. “Now there’s a void.”
Patterson doted on her grandchildren.
void is being felt near and far.
Bishop Brandon B. Porter Sr., senior pastor of Greater Community
Temple COGIC, the jurisdictional prelate of the Tennessee Central Jurisdiction
and board member of COGIC, said Mrs. Patterson “was by far a person of
excellence and grace, uniquely giving and considerate.”
“I guess the greatest gift that my wife and I experienced from
her was her gift of love, respect and fellowship,” said Bishop Porter in a
statement to The New Tri-State Defender.
“On occasion she would just show up to lend support to whatever we, the Porter
family, were doing.”
Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., COGIC’s presiding bishop, said the international
church body was saddened to hear the news of Mrs. Patterson’s death. He called
her a “beloved sister” who profoundly touched him and his wife, Mae.
“We shared many wonderful moments with Judith and her late husband,
Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr.,” the presiding bishop said via email. “We are
praying for the family.”
Patterson loved the Lord, her sisters said. She was a central figure at
Pentecostal Temple COGIC, where her husband had served as senior pastor until
his death in 2011. His son, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason Patterson Sr., succeeded him as
Although the church had become Mrs.
Patterson’s sanctuary, Adkins and Johnson remember their sister’s lifelong commitment
to mentoring, teaching and advocating for children in the school system. A
“Distinguished Classroom Teacher Award” exemplified that commitment to the
“She was a tenacious individual when it came
to education, children and learning,” said Adkins. “She was the consummate
She also was “multitalented” and “multifaceted,”
Johnson added. “She had so many diverse interests and was excellent at what she
put her heart to. She was a leader.”
And a pianist as well, she said, recalling
that unforgettable day when Mrs. Patterson played “Amazing Grace” for an uncle.
In the early ’70s, she played piano for Union
Grove M. B. Church and New Era M. B. Church.
Patterson also believed in community service and giving back, her sisters said
– to orphans in Africa, for example, when she trekked to the continent several
times on medical missions.
was a joy to the villagers in Africa who needed supplies,” Adkins said.
was an inspiration, her son added.
Mrs. Patterson died two days before her
birthday. Dotson had planned a party for his mother at his new home. “I told my
brother and sister (Brian and Tiffany) that we would still do the birthday
party – and we did. We had an absolute ball. And I know she was there.”
The visitation is Friday, March 20, from 6
p.m. to 8 p.m. at Greater Imani Church, The Cathedral of Faith, 3824 Austin Peay Hwy.
There will be a viewing at the church Saturday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to noon,
followed by the funeral service.
The interment will be in Memorial Park
Cemetery, 5668 Poplar Ave.