George Patton Eulogized At Funeral Service
The Patton Children Remember Their Famous Dad.
July 7, 2004
by Bob Hersey
I first met George Smith Patton when
he commanded the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. He took command in July of
1968. I had already been in country three months. I remember two meetings with the
general, although, there were probably more. He was tall, like his father but unlike his
father he carried a standard issue .45 caliber automatic pistol. When I left Vietnam and
the regiment and Colonel Patton behind I had no way to know that 35 years later I would
find myself, along with my wife Hellen, attending his funeral in a little Episcopal Church
in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. So, here we are, July 7, 2004 saying a final farewell to
my commander, someone who I didnt really know well, except by those two meetings I
mentioned and by his reputation.
I learned of the then Colonel and now retired Maj. General Pattons death on the
message board at 11thcavnam.com,
the website of the 11th Armored Cavalrys Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia. I had,
for a long time, known that the general and I were practically neighbors. He, along with his wife Joanne, live 50 minutes south
of us in Hamilton, Massachusetts, an area that marks the beginning of Cape Ann on the
North Shore of Boston.
We left home at 8:00 A.M. expecting traffic delays but didnt find any so we were
among the first to arrive at St. Johns
Episcopal Church, the church of the Patton family. The bell in the tower of the church
was donated in memory of Georges father, Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. Georges
parents were married there on May 26, 1910.
We went into the office and met the church secretary who gave us a little history of
the church saying that it was over 100 years old. Its small but perfectly suited for
what was once a sparsely populated community and in some ways still remains so. As we
walked up to the front entrance of the church we noticed that the hearse was parked
nearby. We were greeted by the usher who handed us each a program. We took seats down the
center isle, six rows from the front. The first few rows were reserved for family and the
left isle seats for the honor guard, The Ancient and Honorable Order Of The Massachusetts
Artillery, of which General Patton was a member.
Shortly before 10:00 the family was escorted into the church led by Joanne,
Georges wife and the five Patton children, Robert, Helen, Benjamin, Mother Margaret
Georgina, OSB and George S. Patton, Jr. The generals body lie at the foot of the
altar. His casket - a plain pine coffin made and offered by the nuns and extended family
of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut from the wood grown on the Abbey
land. The lid of the coffin had three emblems - a wooden cross, the insignias of the 2nd
Armored Division and the 11th Armored Cavalry "Blackhorse" Regiment, units
commanded by the general.
Along with the immediate family the first few rows and the choir loft behind the altar
began to fill with Pattons large family. When the funeral service began promptly at
10:00 the church was filled with some standing along the walls and in the back of the
church. The large attendance was a fitting tribute to a man who was larger than life.
The Rev. Wendel W. Meyer, Rector began by welcoming everyone and telling us that this
funeral service, "was not for George Patton but rather, was about George Patton. And,
he was right. Robert, Helen, Mother Margaret and Benjamin along with his brother George
all spoke of what life was like, "growing up Patton".
Robert spoke first and told us about his father three passions, hunting, fishing and
sailing. Robert said that his father agreed with everyone that he "was not very good
at any of them". He recalled his fathers hunting dog, a black lab named Pistol,
who was terrified of gunfire and would run off every time the general shot at his prey but
the general would not get rid of the dog. When Roberts father wanted to go fishing
he would call up his buddies and say, "lets go whack at the water and see what
One time, Robert recounted, he, his father and others in the family were sailing in the
Caribbean. Robert was down below when his father called him. "Were going to
dock. Take the wheel". "But dad", said Robert, "I haven't done this in
a long time". "Thats Ok", said the general, "youll do
fine". When Robert rammed the dock he said to his father, "See, I told you I
wasnt any good". The general replied, "thats Ok, I knew one of us
would ram the dock. Better you than me".
Robert went on to recount the last few days of his fathers life when the general
was so sick with Parkinsons disease. He spoke of the time when his son was sitting
with the general by his bedside. "Is there anything I can do for you
grandfather". "Yes", the general replied, "I just need you to be my
Robert went on to share a very personal moment that spoke to his fathers capacity
to forgive. One day, Roberts wife and the general were in a heated argument over the
phone. Roberts wife slammed the phone down on the general. Thirty minutes later, a
knock came to their door. There, to Roberts wifes surprise, were a dozen,
long-stem yellow roses with a note of apology from her father-in-law. Robert went on to
say that his father was quick to anger but quicker to forgive. He also said that his
father often got on the wrong side of people. He described his father as, "an equal
Helen Patton-Plusczyk, Georges daughter, spoke about her remembrances of
Christmas and how each year, the five of them would put on a Christmas play. It so
happens, that Christmas eve was her fathers birthday, having been born on December
24, 1923. She also remembers her father "going off to Vietnam". His duffel bag
was filled to overflowing, the draw strings on the bag reined in its contents. She often
associated the strings of the duffel bag with events in her fathers life that
"reined him in", too.
Hellen and I met Benjamin at the August reunion of the 11th ACVVC in Washington, DC. He
came to the podium with his older brother George. Benjamin recounted the friendship that
his father had with Manfred Romel. Manfred said of the general, "he has a way of
simplifying the complicated". Benjamin went on to speak for his brother George who
spoke a heartfelt goodbye to his father. They received the only ovation of applause during
Lastly, Mother Margaret spoke to the side of her father that enjoyed poetry. She quoted
from one of her fathers favorite poets, Rudyard Kiplings "If".
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man my
son"! Mother Margaret also read excerpts of General Douglas McArthurs poem,
"Build Me A Son". It is Mother Margarets
religious order that made her fathers coffin.
The service ended an hour and half after it began. Before the dismissal, the rector, on
behalf of the family, invited everyone to a luncheon reception at the family home of Green
Meadows Farm. Hellen and I retrieved our car and followed a white Jeep through the gently
rolling hills, winding narrow roads and gorgeous meadow lands that is the Beverly /
When we arrived at Green Meadows at 650 Asbury Street there was already a line of cars
parked along the road in front of the colonial
building home to the Patton family. The estate of the late Gen. Patton of WWII
fame was divided between George and his sister, Ruth Ellen Patton Totten. Ruth
Ellen, now deceased, bought a retirement home nearby. She lived there until her
death in 1992.
We walked up the short walkway to the front door and waited behind several guests
waiting to enter. The door was held open for us by a young man in a white, starched
serving jacket. As we entered we were greeted by Mother Margaret. We introduced ourselves
and she invited us in. In the parlor were Benjamin and his wife, Jennifer. We reminded
Benjamin of our meeting in DC and he said to be sure to visit his fathers study and
thumb through the generals scrapbook and photo album given to him by the officers
and men of the 11th ACR upon his departure from the regiment in April of 1969 but first we
had to offer our sympathy to Joanne, the generals wife. She was in the screened
porch at the back of the house that led out into the back yard. Mrs. Patton graciously
welcomed us into her home and after a brief story about her husband we exited out to the
yard where a large white tent was set up.
We wet our whistle at one of the two bars that was set up and then proceeded to mingle
among the guests. The day was perfect, sunny and warm without being too hot. One of the
guests joked that the general ordered up the weather for the day. Trays of finger foods
were carried about the tent and offered to us by the staff. As I was sipping my gin and
tonic I noticed a Lt. Colonel in uniform with a Blackhorse lapel pin. I was wearing one as
well so I stopped him and asked when he was in the regiment. He was Charlie Watkins
Col. Pattons helicopter pilot. It was a delight to meet him and his wife. Charlie
spoke about the times that Col. Patton was shot down, "four or five times", he
We also met John Morrison, a family friend of the last 12 years. John is a military
history buff, particularly WWII. He was a wellspring of information about the Patton
family. He said that a friend or relative of his was making a Blackhorse plaque and asked
if he would make another so that he could present it to the general, which he did, three
years ago. He said that the general held the plaque tightly and his eyes gleamed
As the afternoon went on people began to leave and so we decided to leave but first, we
went into the generals study to look at the albums that Benjamin asked us to see
when we first arrived. There is no mistaking whose house this is. There is Patton
memorabilia everywhere, especially the study. It was too much to absorb in just the few
moments that we had. The general and his fathers likeness are everywhere in
paintings and photographs. We looked at the album of the generals service in Vietnam
when Benjamin came in and showed us the older and more personal family album. The wedding
photos of his parents, his siblings growing up and those famous and not so famous who came
by Green Meadow Farm to visit.
Off of the study is the generals office. We entered to find his desk facing into
the room and away from the window. Again, totally Patton everywhere. A small office but
suitable for his needs. We didnt linger long because a few of the family were there
and we didnt want to intrude on their privacy.
It was now 3:00 P.M. and time to leave. We said our good-byes to the children and found
Joanne at the front door assisting a guest in a wheelchair who was leaving. We gave her a
sympathy card and thanked her for her and her familys hospitality. She graciously
asked me if I would give her hug and I happily obliged. Such a delightful and beautiful
woman. We are better for having met her and for sharing this day with her in her grief.
Let me close by sharing with you three quotes that appear on the back of the funeral
"Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. And never to be
content with a half truth when the whole can be won" . . . . . USMA Cadet Prayer.
"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings - nor lose
the common touch . . . If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds
worth of distance run . . . Rudyard Kipling
"Keep an equal strain on your moving parts! . . . . Major General George S. Patton
General Patton's remains are interred at Arlington
National Cemetery, Arlington, VA in Section 34, Lot 784.