Sassy Pattillo

Sassy Pattillo
Charles and Sassy

Although she’s answered the question countless times during her 80 years, Sarah Allison “Sassy” (McCarthy) Pattillo just laughs at the memory of a school classmate on the West Riverside Elementary playground who loudly declared her to be “Sassy!” The intended insult instead became her lifelong nickname. While this gentle soft-spoken lady seems a far cry from “Sassy!” the name holds happy memories.

“I grew up on an Edgewood Avenue Circle before my parents Margaret (Durkee) and Edward McCarthy bought an Ortega Boulevard waterfront home across from St. Mark’s [Episcopal Church]. There was my brother Edward, me and my sister Deborah. Mother grew up in Empire Point and my father was an attorney from Richmond, Va. I attended John Gorrie Junior High School and St. Anne’s in Charlottesville, Va., then Hollins College for two years before transferring to UF Gainesville. I graduated with a commercial art degree,” Pattillo recalled.

Three generations: Charles Evans Pattillo IV, III and V

Three generations: Charles Evans Pattillo IV, III and V

In Gainesville, Sassy met handsome Charles E. “Pat” Pattillo from Tampa who was four years older. Pat went on to become an award-winning Jacksonville architect; the couple were married 55 years until his passing in 2012. In the beginning of their courtship and after her college graduation, however, Sassy’s mother declared her far too young for engagement or marriage and opted for a tried-and-true solution.

“My parents sent me off to Europe to travel for two months with my friends Cecilia Todd of Avondale (now in Tallahassee) and the late Preston Stockton,” she said. “But Pat was so wonderful, everyone loved him and he wrote to me every day via two more Avondale friends, Kakki (Howe) and her husband Radford Lovett. Radford was in the military stationed in Germany. When I visited they had stacks of Pat’s letters for me. When I returned home Pat and I were engaged. We married in my family church, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, just before my 25th birthday.”

Pat was hired by Hardwick & Lee Architects and the couple settled into their first home in what Sassy refers to as “Splintersville.” Their Westfield Road home was across the railroad tracks on the other side of Roosevelt Blvd. Although not considered the best Ortega Forest street at the time, the Pattillos lived there nine happy years.

“We were friends with several other young neighborhood couples and we took bets on which of us would be the first to move out. I remember Pat and I were so afraid that we would be the last ones to leave!” she said. “In 1968 we moved to Apache Avenue and were the youngest family on the street. We raised our son, Charles (Chase) E. Pattillo IV and daughter Britton (Pattillo) Howze.”

While her children attended school Sassy worked for several Avondale retail shops over the years. She worked for the late Mildred Green, an Avondale interior decorator, Apache Avenue neighbor and friend Alice Irving of The Jade Tree gift shop and at Shirley Leao and Betty Dupree’s lingerie shop Trousseau Treasures. She spent 12 years in partnership with close friend Jane Chadbourne at their business on St. John’s Avenue, Custom Imprint Ink. Customized stationery and posters were bestsellers.

“We both had art backgrounds, were childhood friends and knew everyone,” she said. “It was very successful and rewarding…a wonderful time in my life.”

The Pattillos were Gator fans who attended every game and tailgated with several other couples including Chuck and Dolly Thompson of Ortega Forest, Lamar and Judy Drake and Joe and Kathy Branch.

Siblings Deborah McCarthy Adams, Edward McCarthy and Sassy McCarthy Pattillo

Siblings Deborah McCarthy Adams, Edward McCarthy and Sassy McCarthy Pattillo

“That’s a bitter pill to swallow! Our children refused to go to UF and now a second grandchild is heading off to FSU! All Pat’s friends say he is definitely having a good laugh over that,” she said.

Family life was boating on the St. John’s River, water skiing under the bridges and activities at the Yacht and Timuquana Clubs. Sassy said all the men golfed and the women enjoyed bridge. Their children swam together, played tennis and their friends practically lived at the Pattillo home. Pat designed an elaborate treehouse for his children, large enough for several people to stand and walk in. Many days were spent making paper airplanes to fly down from the treehouse or playing ping pong. When the family traveled to Sea World to swim with the dolphins, it was an unforgettable experience for Sassy.

Other memories were of fall children’s parties where everyone bobbed for apples and attending the annual Jacksonville May Fete put on by the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Boone Park. It was exciting to see who would be selected May Queen.

After Pat retired in 1994, Sassy was proud of the book he published entitled St. Dunstan’s & John. It’s a novel about historic churches built along the St. John’s River and buried treasure during the Civil War.

“Pat was fascinated with local history, especially the string of churches built along the St. John’s. He used his research to write an historical novel,” she said. “After its publication he was often asked to speak to civic groups about the river churches’ history…that made us both very happy.”

Sassy looks forward to visits with her sister Deborah (McCarthy) Adams and husband James of Greensboro, N.C. and her brother Edward and Julie (Fant) McCarthy of Avondale and her four grandchildren.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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