James Lee Patterson, affectionately known as Jim, was born on August 4, 1958, in South Bend to Carol Bennett and an unnamed father; his parents preceded him in death. He spent the majority of his life in South Bend. He attended Mishawaka High School where he played on the soccer team; he graduated in 1976. Jim fulfilled his desire to serve his country and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1979. He was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky and was also stationed in Germany for three years. He completed his Tour of Duty and received an Honorable Discharge 1983. While in the military Jim became a certified mechanic which became his job in the Army.
Jim had a 28-year relationship with Merry Kay Boehm (formally Merry Kay Warner). They got together in 1983 and separated in 2011. In 1997 Merry Kay gave birth to Jim’s only child: Gina Nicole Patterson. Jim helped raise a stepdaughter, Angela Lister during Gina's upbringing. In 2015, he met Trudi Payton; he and Trudi were married and remained together until her death in 2018.
Jim enjoyed doing automotive repairs and was great at it. He was formerly a mechanic at the former McKinley Automotive in Mishawaka. He repaired cars during the day, and once home, he would spend his nights working on cars in his garage. Jim loved his family and always made sure to work hard to repair and flip cars so he could bring in enough money to provide for family and stay above the poverty line. Over the last few years of his life, Jim worked at a shop, with his good friend David Blake, on Lincolnway and College in South Bend. A major highlight in Jim’s life was being able to fully restore a 1978 Datsun Z-280. He had a reputation for doing outstanding repairs. His friends said that Jim could tell what was wrong with a car just from the sounds of the car.
In addition to car repairs, Jim also enjoyed fishing and often spoke about going fishing with his grandmother as a kid. He used to spend a great deal of time at American Legion Post #308 in Osceola where he would often take Gina along with him. Jim also loved going to the Casinos. During one of his final conversations he said, “I wish I could go to the Casino one last time.”
Jim became ill and was hospitalized on January 18, 2022. He was diagnosed with an untreatable liver cancer. He passed away on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, at the Hospice House of Saint Joseph County; he was 63 years old. His family and friends have honored his request to be cremated.
He leaves to cherish his loving memory one daughter, Gina; a stepdaughter, Angela; a granddaughter, Brianna (whose photo he always kept in his wallet); two sisters, Kathy Bennett and Cindy Bennett; a cousin, Dr. Gregory (and his wife) Ferro; a half- brother, Bruce Bennett; close friends, David and Ruth Blake; their children, Danya Hardin, Brian (Jeannine) Blake; their grandchildren, and many customers and friends.
Jim was a soft-spoken man who smiled often and was kind to others. A true testament to his kindness was how quickly people donated to his cremation fund. He will be missed by those who knew and loved him and the many lives he impacted.
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