It is hard to put pen to paper when you are writing about family or a long-time friend. Robert Patton was both. We lost him on April 11th, 2013, after a long illness.
Robert touched a lot of people. People in our town, people in his veterans organizations, and people who are survivors of the holocaust. He spent the last few years ensuring that those who served were not forgotten. He championed a Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill–a project now in progress.
His presence is especially felt by the families of holocaust survivors. Here in our Chapel Hill-Durham area there are children of survivors. Some have expressed gratitude to Robert. They would not be here, had the 65th Infantry not freed Mauthausen on May 5, 1945.
Here are our thoughts, as written for the Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill website.
Robert served as an enlisted man in the United States Army in the 65th Infantry Division, Third U.S. Army. This was General George Patton’s army, although they were not related.
As World War II was ending, Robert Patton found himself at Mauthausen, Austria, on May 5, 1945. This was the site of a German Concentration Camp. The 65th Infantry liberated that camp. Robert returned to Austria for a 65th Infantry Reunion visit and they journeyed to Mauthausen. He saw then that a large area was a covered field, yet this was the site of a mass burial of camp members. He brought this to the attention of the local government and that led to a years-long effort to place a memorial at the mass burial grave site.
Robert returned again for the dedication of the Mauthausen Memorial and then once again to place his World War II uniform in an Austrian museum. Learn more
Robert spoke extensively about the concentration camp, its liberation, and his personal observation. This won him significant recognition and membership in the local Chapel Hill-Durham Holocaust Speakers Bureau.
Here is what local person recently wrote about his passing and Mauthausen:
- “I am devastated to hear about Robert. I admired him so much! And I will forever be grateful for his service. My grandfather was in Mauthausen and so was my cousin’s great-grandfather. Bob may have saved the life of my cousin’s great-grandfather.I doubt that I would be here if it were not for our brave men and women during WWII.” – Deborah H. Long, CDEI, DREI, Ed.D
Robert Patton was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government in recognition of his service during World War II in France. Learn more
Robert Patton passed away on April 11, 2013. He was a long time supporter of local veterans’ efforts to establish a veterans memorial in Chapel Hill. He realized that there was no memorial of any type built by the Town of Chapel Hill and supported a town memorial.
- His graveside service and inurnment is scheduled for April 20th, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.
- A memorial service will be held at his church, University Presbyterian Church, on April 27th, 2013. at 11 a.m. Details
Robert Patton was selected as a Chapel Hill Treasure and several times as the recipient of the WCHL Radio Village Pride Award for being a Chapel Hill Hometown Hero. Learn more
He served as American Legion Chapel Hill Post 6 Commander and Adjutant. He also served as Adjutant, Veterans of Foreign Wars C. V. Cummings Chapel Hill Post 6.
- Video: Chapel Hill Town Council Meeting, November 23, 2009, Robert Patton speaks
- Print: World War II Veteran Promotes Peace, Garnernews.net and Apex Herald
- Print: A True Hero; by Matt Goad, Chapel Hill Magazine, March 2, 2012
– Lee Heavlin, April 16, 2013