FROM READERS: Friend pays tribute to Mary Pat Boatfield

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Nancy Rogers is a Volunteer of the Year at the Central Missouri Humane Society.

“Mary Pat, can you have lunch today?”

Tribute to Mary Pat Boatfield

This is a tribute given in honor of Mary Pat Boatfield (1949 – 2014), executive director, Central Missouri Humane Society, at her memorial service on July 8at Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia. Donations to further Mary Pat’s work on behalf of animals can be made to the Central Missouri Humane Society online at or mailed to 616 Big Bear Ave., Columbia, MO 65202.

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“Sure,” she said.

We met at The Pasta Factory.

I talked about my rabbits; she talked about her chickens.

“Mary Pat, I have a great idea for an outdoor cat enclosure. I saw one online that I would like to donate to the Shelter.”

I described it. Mary Pat listened.

Then she began outlining her idea for a cat enclosure. Immediately I saw that my plan had a few holes in it, not the least of which was that the cats would get wet in the rain. As she spoke it was dawning on me that Mary Pat knew more about cat enclosures than I would ever know. 

“I want to build something that will last ten years, not two years,” she said.

“Mary Pat, the $2,500 is yours for the project, whatever you decide is best. Just let me know when you are ready to begin and you will have the money.”

I trusted Mary Pat to know what to do — better than I.

It felt safe with Mary Pat at the helm. Whatever one wanted to give, she and her staff were grateful. I thrived in the vast, open space they offered me as a volunteer. I was given a wide berth to create ads, take pictures for Pulse, or run with the dogs. There was freedom to express one’s love of animals in a multitude of ways. I flourished in an environment that was free of judgment and boundlessly appreciative.

If it was good for the animals and the Shelter it was good for Mary Pat.

She made me want to do more and more and more.

And so I adopted more and more and more . . . rabbits.

“Dessert?” a waiter interrupted my musings.

“Spumoni ice cream — and two spoons.”

We returned to our favorite topic: my rabbits; her chickens.

As we were leaving the restaurant I turned to her, held her hands in mine, bowed my head and said,  

“Mary Pat, I honor you for what you do every day. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see what you see and do what you do. Thank you for doing it for me.”

That was the last thing I ever said to her.

A few days after Mary Pat died I popped over to the Shelter.

Julie, Kari and Ashley were in their offices, working.

They knew all about the cat enclosure – even the conversation I had with Mary Pat at lunch that Monday. Julie was ready to consider bids for the project.

Mary Pat wasn’t there.

Mary Pat wouldn’t be back in her office.

But Mary Pat was there. I could feel her presence — laughing, smiling, and encouraging her devoted staff — just as she had done every day for two wonderful years.

Indeed, the baton had been passed on.

I’m glad I followed the impulse to invite my friend Mary Pat out for lunch that Monday.

There wasn’t going to be a next Monday to have lunch.  It had to be that one. And it was.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.

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