Pat Wells Farwell
Pat Wells Farwell was born in Skagway, Alaska on January 26, 1919. He passed away November 19, 2016 at 97 years 297 days old.
When Pat was a little boy his father abandoned him and his mom, shamed with guilt because he lost his mom’s, Ysoult’s, inheritance in a failed business venture. Pat’s mom kept a roof over his head by opening a tea house on Main Street where she interpreted tea leaves and told fortunes. Late in life, Pat’s eyes teared over when he spoke about his mom, “a saint,” and her uncanny ability to predict the future. When about six, he pleaded with her to allow him to go swimming at the lake with the older boys. Much to his disappointment she steadfastly refused insisting that there would be trouble. Late in the day, two of the boys were carried to town in black sacks, dead from drowning.
Pat lived a Huck-Finn-type childhood along the wharf and on the dock where an old Indian woman made sure he didn’t get into too much mischief. When her watchful eyes saw him strut by, she would call out, “He’z ma son na.” (“He’s my sonny.”)
Out of the house and on his own, his older brother Bill had a dog sled team and, for a nickel each, took tourists from the cruise ships that came to Skagway up Main Street to Soapy Smith’s “gold nugget,” a huge rock at the outskirts of town painted gold.
Pat built a boat in the living room one winter when he was about 12; a testament to what a saint his mom truly was. He spent many summers fishing along the coast. When his mom suddenly became ill and died, Pat was taken in by the Selmer family that lived in a little house across the alleyway. As a teenager, with a winning smile and shock of red hair, his boat made ideal “girl bait” and he took many of the town’s young ladies on picnic outings.
He worked on the White Horse Railroad which provided the money to buy gear for mountain goat hunts, fly fishing excursions and an 8mm movie camera with which he took pictures of the railroad, Alaska’s wilderness and the mega-sized flowers and vegetables grown in Alaska’s 24-hour sun during the summers.
Pat was captain and point guard for the Skagway High School state championship basketball team. Pat, one to vividly describe with great color and aplomb his life stories over and over again, would retell that the gym was so narrow that when he backed up against the wall to inbound the ball his sweat soaked jersey would stick to the frozen winter wall.
Leaving Skagway, his student days at the University of Washington were interrupted by WWII. He went to flight school in the Army Air Corps becoming the captain of a B17 and flew 52 (That’s right 52!) missions out of Italy over Germany and Eastern Europe earning a number of service medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross. Pat, a great story teller, rarely spoke about the war. Late in life, he would tell of the night his plane got caught in the backwash of one of the engines of a plane in front of him catapulting his bomber over the top of the formation into a spinning dive that took every ounce of his and the co-pilot’s strength to pull it out of its death spiral. Returning from one mission riddled with machine gun and anti-aircraft fire with only one engine left, the crew jettisoned over the Adriatic Sea every gun and piece of equipment they could unbolt, barely limping back to the runway.
After the war Pat returned to the University of Washington, where a music teacher discovered his natural tenor voice. So began his passion for opera. He quit school, went to Los Angeles to work under the famed voice coach, Val Rosen, and performed in many opera productions. He loved to tell the story of a time his opera company was in Seattle when he found himself in an elevator with Robert Merrill, a famous tenor. Recognizing Pat from that evening’s performance, he said to Pat, “That was the best Goro I’ve ever heard.” Pat was extremely proud of that moment.
In the 50s, he married my mom, Kay, and we lived in the Hollywood Hills. After spending a season auditioning with the famous German opera houses, he decided to give up his dream of being a world-renowned tenor and became a dad to my sisters, Christine and Jean and to me, Mike. He and my mom brought us another sister, Kim. He worked as a remodeling contractor with his close friend, Sam Cassano.
Pat was a great dad taking me camping, fishing and hiking at Mineral King in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. We went to Dodger baseball games and to Laker games, a team which he loyally loved to follow the rest of his life. He’d grab my knee with the “terrible claw” until I screamed for him to let go; an antic he continued to play on anyone he felt vulnerable to attack throughout the years.
In the mid-sixties, after relocating to Santa Barbara, he separated from Kay.
That black cloud had a silver lining for he ended up being captured by the love of his life, Anne. Over the next decades, “Pat and Anne” became synonymous with the phrase “living life to the fullest.” They traveled the United States in BIG UGLY, the 1948 Studebaker truck on which Pat rebuilt a show stopping one-of-a-kind camper shell with mahogany interior and stained glass windows powered by a Chevy 350 V8 engine. Their nonstop social calendar included trips to parties with the “motor cycle gang,” opera excursions, and evenings with friends. They couldn’t get enough quick getaways to Montana De Oro, Jalama or Figueroa Mountain where they would drink “bourbon and water” and enjoy succulent lobsters or crab legs. There was no end to their enthusiasm, or their fun.
Pat had to have a fire in the fireplace every night, even in the middle of August. His late in life obsession with hunting down and chopping up firewood seemed to be imbedded in his DNA from his early life Alaska experience. He would search the neighborhood collecting pine cones and seed pods to burn. He relished picking up wood at construction sites and a big adventure was to search the scrap bins at local lumberyards. Growing up in the Depression, he enjoyed the free stuff and was dismayed by the greedy acquisition mode of our consumer generation. He was happy and satisfied.
He had his odd sayings. To, “How are you?” he’d reply, “If I felt any better, I’d think I was sick.”
Pat’s dementia began to impact his independence in his mid-90s. Always a charmer, the staff at Friendship House loved him. We often sat in the patio and looked at His Tree, a giant oak that awed him, and pinwheels spinning in the breeze. One day, contrary to his always upbeat nature, he turned sad. I asked, “What’s wrong, Pat?” He said, “Something’s really bothering me.” I asked, “What?” He sat silent with a perplexed look on his face. Then a sheepish expression turned into a broad smile. “I can’t remember!” Even without a memory, he had a quick wit and up beat spirit.
Pat is pre-deceased by his daughter Claudia Kimberly Forsman (Kim), granddaughter Anna Christine Brady, step daughter Christine Ann Brady and brother Bill Farwell. He is survived by Kim’s family; husband David Forsman, grandson Jesse Andersen, granddaughter Missy Andersen, great grandsons Marshall and Carter, granddaughters Kathryn Holmes (husband Bill) and Sara Iba (husband Trevor). Anne Forster, Pat’s love, gave him a whole added family with Michelanne Forster (husband Nigel Dunlop), her sons Mike Forster (wife Leuaina) and Mathias Corwin, Anne’s sons John Forster and Paul Forster, daughter Susie Forster (husband Charles Saunders) and her children Paisley and Kayla. Stepdaughters are Kathleen Roi James and Jean Hehn. He was my dad. I’m Mike Brady. My wife is Kathy. Our son Micah has two of Pat’s great grandchildren Laker and Fallin.
A gathering celebrating Pat will be held on Saturday, January 7 at 2:00 P.M. at the Netzer Center at Friendship House, 880 Friendship Lane, Solvang, Ca 93463
In lieu of gifts or flowers please make a donation to the Friendship House.