County legal counsel dies after scooter accident

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 | 10:19 a.m. CDT; updated 11:03 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 8, 2008

COLUMBIA — John Patton, Boone County’s legal counsel for more than 20 years and a devoted husband and father, died Monday after a weekend scooter accident. He was 56.

Patton was driving a 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo scooter on Saturday night when he was injured in an attempt to avoid a deer in the road, according to a news release from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Maj. Tom Reddin of the Sheriff’s Department said that a neighbor found Patton within minutes of the accident and called for help. Deputies were dispatched about 7:30 p.m. to the 2300 block of East Gans Road.

Reddin said Patton was wearing a helmet, but he could not disclose the extent of Patton’s injuries beyond saying, “He was very seriously injured.”

As counselor, Patton reviewed contracts, assisted with litigation, and provided legal counsel to the county, Boone County Commissioner Ken Pearson said. Because of the varying responsibilities, the job of county counselor is a unique position.

“It requires a person who has a wide breadth of experience,” Pearson said. “That is not something that is easily replaceable.”

County officials have already met to discuss how they will deal with the workload left by Patton’s absence. In the short term, Pearson said, the office is looking for assistance wherever they can get it to cover the cases Patton had been working on, while the county attempts to fill the position permanently.

“John’s departure leaves a huge hole in county government,” Boone County assessor Tom Schauwecker said. “We all relied on him. He was our referee.”

Both Schauwecker and Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren remarked on Patton’s role in county government. He resolved interdepartmental issues and also represented the county in litigation.

“He has provided so much good advice and good counsel to those of us in county government,” Noren said.

In addition to their professional relationship, Noren and Patton had a strong friendship. The two met through their work at the county offices.

“I was immediately struck by his intelligence,” she said. “We started sharing books.”

Patton graduated Phi Beta Kappa from MU, where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Columbia attorney Gary Stamper, who has known Patton since they started law school together in 1978, described him as “thoughtful, philosophic, and an avid outdoorsmen.”

Patton could relate to anyone and had a broad range of interests, Stamper said.

“He just recently completed a welding course,” Stamper said. “He was as proud of that degree as any.”

Patton was also a devoted father to his three sons. He was active in Boy Scouts with them and decorated his office with photos from their camping trips, Schauwecker said.

“He worshiped the ground his three sons walked on,” he said.

Patton also enjoyed running, biking and camping. He had recently started a vineyard in his backyard.

Patton leaves behind his wife, Martha, and three sons.

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