Born into the "Patrol Family," Patterson retires with dignity

Helping people is what he'll miss most
Dec. 21, 2012 @ 05:33 AM

SPINDALE — There has never been a time in North Carolina Highway Patrolman Randy Patterson's life, there hasn't been a patrol car in his yard at home.

Until today. 

He has retired after a successful 27 year career with the NCHP.

Patterson's patrol car — SHP- 502 — is no longer assigned to him and he won't be answering calls on the North Carolina highways.

"But I'll be taking calls ... this time from the air,"  he said.

Patterson flies the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department helicopter and plans to continues. 

He had planned his retirement to be at a  time when he and his dad, Pat Patterson, could fly more together with the sheriff's department and spent quality time together.

"But the God Lord knows the plan," Patterson said of his dad's death just over two months ago.

Among highlights as a State Trooper,Patterson says was the year he was on the force with his dad.

Patterson joined the NCHP in January 1986 and his dad retired in December 1986.

Although they didn't work in the same county, "We did get to work the North Carolina State Fair that year. It was great," Patterson said. Patterson often rode with his dad in Rutherford County when he wasn't on duty.

He said it was also an honor to work with his sister, S. Beth Patterson, who retired from the patrol a few months ago.

"There has never been a brother, sister in the North Carolina Highway Patrol," Patterson said. 

Being able to work in the same county with Beth was another highlight, he said.

She was born the day Pat Patterson  was taking the state trooper's entrance exam.

He was born a few years later. "So even before I was born there has been a patrol car in my driveway. Not seeing the patrol car in my driveway, isn't going to be easy."

"I was born into the "Patrol Family" and have lived that life with pride continuously since," he said.

Patterson looks forward to spending more quality his wife Karen and their three children, Caroline, 13, Chloe, 9 and Gavin, 7.

"I plan to keep giving back to the community."

Patterson has no regrets about his NCHP career. "I've had a blessed career ... when I've been placed in some bad situations, I've been kept safe."

Since Patterson has been a State Trooper, 15 of his fellow troopers' names have been added to the memorial at the Training Center in Raleigh.

"Their sacrifices for all of us in this great state is most worthy in mentioning," he said.

Most of all Patterson is going to miss "helping people. That's the thing I'm going to miss the most," he said.

"But I'll still have connection to the community and to the patrol. We're a very close knit group," he said of his fellow troopers.

Patterson said he has had several life and death situations and has memories of some of the worst days of his career.

Early in his career when he was working in McDowell County, he investigated a bad car accident when an Oklahoma woman was critically injured. She was on her way to a ski resort. She had no family near by.

Patterson said she was in intensive care several weeks. "Once she got out of ICU, I was able to arrange an Angel Flight for her to go back to Oklahoma to be near her mother," Patterson said.

He continued to communicate with her and when she was married in Georgia years later, Pat and his wife Karen were invited to the wedding,and attended.

"Sometimes you don't know if you've made a difference or not. There is so much we do. We never know. But I am glad I was able to follow through on that case."

Patterson said from assisting a stranded motorists, someone who has run out of gas and just being able to offer help in trying to keeping North Carolinians safe on the highways, has been the best part of his job.

Patterson has investigated thousands of car accidents and the dangers of driving occur most when a person is speeding and multiple that with a distraction such as texting, talking, eating a sandwich, or whatever, and the result is not good, he said.

"Sometimes we just get too complacent," he said. "When you are speeding you are already loosing critical footage, but with a distraction. It's bad."

"Not every day I spent on the Patrol was easy or enjoyable. To be honest, there were days when in that moment, I couldn't find satisfaction and questioned if what I was doing would ever make a difference.

However he said, '''this is a part of life and the good times and pride far outweigh any bad days."