Piper’s service will be missed by those who supported her

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 6, 2001

"The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.

Tuesday, February 06, 2001

"The universe is made up of stories, not atoms." – Muriel Rukeyser

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The Holiday Inn of Austin will fill with stories – good stories, Pat Piper stories – Thursday night at the Pat Piper appreciation dinner.

Pat always has been an extraordinary person and a kind person.

The Dali Lama says: "My religion is kindness." I think this could apply to Pat, too, and align with her own religious beliefs.

A few years back, during the summer on my way to the library, I passed the Knights of Columbus where Pat was helping someone practice parking and having a time of it – such a time it would have sent most people reeling.

There was also a language barrier, as I concluded the driver was a new immigrant who could hardly speak the language, turning the vehicle every which way trying to comply with Pat’s directions not spoken in the driver’s native tongue.

Pat remained calm and maintained the patience that all of us long for. I watched for about five minutes and didn’t see any major progress.

Pat didn’t give up – another quality of Pat’s.

"How many other state senators or representatives would have made themselves that available?" I wondered as I headed on my way.

Pat was there for the immigrants, too, and not because she served on a committee. This came from the heart.

I have always enjoyed Pat, the years I’ve known her and all she’s been through, and like many others, I was deeply disappointed when she wasn’t re-elected.

We remember when Pat was the "hat lady" in the state Senate, when she fought cancer while maintaining her elected position.

And Pat always spoke to the concerns of the "the little ones" – the ones who Pat cared so much for. And she worked hard on a bipartisan committee to make insurance available for the young – affordable insurance.

Pat once talked about working with folks in the hard-pressed areas of New York at a time in her life when I think she was nun, before her political life or maybe her "on-the-job training."

She also served as a teacher as a nun here in Austin.

I rode out to the cemetery with Pat following Pat Sargent’s funeral. Kevin "Radar" Hanson also rode along. Almost every time Pat stopped by the Herald she would lament about how she missed Pat Sargent’s society page.

On the ride I discovered that Pat Piper had been Hanson’s teacher at St. Augustine’s. It was fun to hear about that part of Pat’s life, too.

I believe Pat was responsible for getting the Christian Education Center up and going. It has meant so much to the community churches and citizen groups that have met there over the years.

Stopping by there once to look for a video I could share with a Sunday school class, Pat was busy in her office talking with a constituent who was facing some kind of struggle and Pat was offering her support. She still was on the phone when I left.

My first association with Pat Piper was embarrassing, at least for me and maybe a lesson was learned. It’s a time I have never talked to Pat about – maybe I will Thursday.

At the time I was involved with the Minnesota Mental Health Association and I had invited a speaker from the Twin Cities to address the local association at the Congregational Church.

It was my job to introduce him.

Pat was in the front row.

I used one of my favorite stories back then to introduce him – my Charlie Anderson story. There is a Charlie Anderson in Austin and many know him. In the story, this Charlie introduces himself to someone in Austin who doesn’t know him.

This Charlie Anderson says, "Everybody knows me." This guy doesn’t resulting in a $25 bet that Charlie doesn’t know the mayor of Austin (I first heard this story in the early 1960s and the cast has not changed – in this introduction I began with mayor of Minneapolis). He knew the mayor, then Baldy Hanson.

For a $200 bet they are on their way to see Gov. Rolvag. He knows Charlie.

Soon they are on their way to the White House with $1,000 riding on this one.

Charlie sees Pierre Salinger, who tells him John F. Kennedy is in a meeting with all these foreign dignitaries. "Tell him Charlie Anderson is out here," Charlie says.

A few minutes later Kennedy arrives, "Charlie Anderson. What a surprise."

This guy is amazed. "There’s one person I know you don’t know and that’s the pope."

There’s $10,000 riding on this one.

The Vatican is packed. Charlie says, "This will be tough. But give me 20 minutes and I’ll be standing up there on that balcony."

The guy summons a policeman as he waits, then hands him his binoculars. "Can you tell me who that is up there on the balcony?"

"I don’t know who the short little fat man with the beanie is but the guy beside him is Charlie Anderson."

We’ll miss you in the Senate, Pat.

Sorry about the story.