Yokota Air Base mourns loss of longtime Tama Hills employee Ike Patterson
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A longtime Department of Defense employee and Air Force veteran died recently after nearly 50 years of combined military and civilian service, including 30 for the air base.
Isaiah “Ike” Patterson, 88, died April 29 of complications of heart and kidney problems, his son Vincent Patterson said Monday. He retired from the Air Force after 21 years and in 1993 went to work for the 374th Force Support Squadron at Tama Hills Recreation Area, according to a May 2 post on the base website.
“I’m proud to have gotten to call such a great man ‘Pops,’” Vincent Patterson said by phone to Stars and Stripes. “He was my rock and my wisdom. He had an answer for everything.”
Isaiah Patterson worked in customer service for Tama Hills, which includes an 18-hole golf course, horseback riding trails, rental cabins and a hotel about 15 miles from Yokota. He continued working into his later years because it gave him a sense of community and helped him feel sharp, his son said.
Patterson had an impressive work ethic and was a friend to everyone, according to Tama Hills manager Jeff Heagerty.
“He remembered everyone’s names and birthdays, and he was so proud to be a member of this community here in Japan,” Heagerty told Stars and Stripes in an interview May 6. “Guests often described talking with Ike as a highlight of their visit to Tama.”
Patterson, born in 1933 in Seneca, S.C., joined the Air Force just after the start of the Korean War. Stationed in Japan, he felt such a connection to the people and culture that he wanted to make it his home, Heagerty said.
He said Patterson often told stories from his days as a military courier carrying important information around the Pacific, as well as what it was like working at Tama Hills in the early 1990s.
“He said he felt more at home here in Japan than in the U.S.,” Heagerty said.
Patterson spent 48 years of his life in Japan, Vincent Patterson said. The father and son had lived together in the same house since Patterson’s wife, Vincent’s stepmother, Hiroko Patterson, died in 2005.
Patterson served in the military as a Black man during a tumultuous time for civil rights.
“He never complained about his hardships, even though I’m sure he endured some,” his son said. “He always saw the good in everyone and only spoke well of people.”
Vincent Patterson said his father was an avid reader and writer and a “news junkie” whose heart broke at the ongoing racial injustice in America. He also described his father as “old-fashioned” and a lover of hand-written letters.
Patterson died in a Japanese hospital with his son by his side. He is survived by seven children, 14 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Patterson is scheduled for May 20 at Tama Hills. He will be buried with military honors at Quantico National Cemetery, Va.