COL Francis (Pat) McDermott
June 19, 1932 - November 30, 2016
Colonel (US Army, Retired) Francis Patrick McDermott -- “Pat” to his friends and “Ahpa” to his ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren -- lived a courageous, generous, and accomplished life. He was born during the Great Depression into a strong Irish-Catholic family, the fifth of six children. He grew up with his parents Louise and Thomas and four sisters (Delores, Colleen, Maurice and Patricia) and brother (Joseph) on a farm just outside of Jamaica, Iowa. He graduated from Jamaica High School in 1950...
COL Francis (Pat) McDermott
June 19, 1932 - November 30, 2016
Colonel (US Army, Retired) Francis Patrick McDermott -- “Pat” to his friends and “Ahpa” to his ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren -- lived a courageous, generous, and accomplished life. He was born during the Great Depression into a strong Irish-Catholic family, the fifth of six children. He grew up with his parents Louise and Thomas and four sisters (Delores, Colleen, Maurice and Patricia) and brother (Joseph) on a farm just outside of Jamaica, Iowa. He graduated from Jamaica High School in 1950 and enrolled at Simpson College on a baseball scholarship. After one semester, he left school and Iowa to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. As an enlisted airman, he guarded B-29’s in California, was recognized for his innate intelligence and leadership potential, and was encouraged to become an officer. In California living near his sister Delores, he studied with her help on weekends and earned an opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army and suddenly found himself a 19-year-old Second Lieutenant leading troops in combat in Korea. Pat was a 30-year distinguished and decorated veteran serving combat tours in both Korea and Vietnam as an Infantry Officer, Army Aviator and Aviation Battalion Commander. During his career he was stationed at bases throughout the US and had assignments in Lebanon and Germany
While attending the Army’s Flight School at Fort Rucker, AL, he met, fell in love, and married the beautiful and charming Harriett Ann Woodham on June 16, 1955, in Dothan, AL. Together Pat and Harriett shared the peripatetic life of an Army officer. Pat attributed much of his success in the Army to Harriett who was the quintessential army wife, a lovely hostess and supportive spouse. As Pat built a successful career with the help of his wife, their family increased as Pat ‘s rank rose and as the family was station first in Maryland where Mary Colleen (1956) was born, then to Germany where Patrick Kevin was born (1959), returning to Alabama for the birth of John Francis (1963), and after an assignment in Kansas, back to Alabama for the birth of Anne Cecilia (1970). Pat’s Army career culminated in his assignment as Professor of Military Science (Army ROTC) at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN and later as Regional Director of ROTC programs throughout the southeastern United States at Ft. Riley, KS. The success he had building the program at APSU led the Army’s Chief of Staff to call the ROTC program at Peay, “The success story of the nation.”
As Pat was building a career and family, he also completed his college and graduate education. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Maryland, and a Master’s Degree in Education from Troy State University. Following his retirement after 30-years in the army, he earned a Ph.D. in Family Economics from Kansas State University. His 1983 doctoral dissertation, "The 5 Things that Keep Individuals from Financial Independence" was groundbreaking in its treatment of whole life insurance.
Pat’s commitment to lifelong learning and education was communicated tangibly to his family. He encouraged and financially assisted his four children and ten grandchildren to attend and complete college. So far, Pat’s determination has been realized as all of his progeny have or are on their way to fulfilling this dream.
Once retired from the Army and a Ph.D. in hand, Pat continued to find ways to keep himself busy. He reinvented himself as an investor and builder in Clarksville, TN. In his work as as independent Financial Planner, he helped people find smart ways to invest their financial resources. Forever resourceful, Pat discovered the potential in real estate development. Not only did he discover a smart way to invest time and money, he developed a passion for building and improving homes. On a few acres of uncultivated forest surrounded by a pastoral setting in Sango, TN, Pat carved out the Ridgewood subdivision, naming many of the streets and lanes after his grandchildren. He designed beautiful homes and bult them himself on Pakie Place and Alex’s Alley nestled into this forested setting.
This enthusiasm for home building continued. In 1995 he build a 100 unit apartment complex, Ballygar Apartments, named after his family’s ancestral village in County Roscommon, Ireland. Not only was Pat the landlord of Ballygar Apartments, but over time, he became the unofficial mayor as he managed these units with concern for the tenants and pleasure in being part of their daily lives. His enthusiasm for real estate continued well after he retired from the responsibility of owning and managing Ballygar. Until last year at age 83, he was still puchasing homes, one at a time, improving, and then selling them, always at a nice profit.
Throughout all of these successful and profitable ventures, Pat never strayed far from one of his deepest loves, the Catholic Church. He took to heart its lessons of charity and good works. Wherever he was, he served God as best he could, giving to the community and helping others. He did so many good things. At each and every stage of his life he was involved in helping others in some way. He taught cathicism, coached baseball, served as Post Commander for the American Legion, served food at soup kitchens, befriended homeless families he met on the street, managed the St. Vincent De Paul thrift store, helped elderly nuns, and was always giving generously to charities. Pat loved the gift of the Holy Eucharist and found a way to attend mass as often as he could, preferably every day. Pat was a devoted and a devout Catholic. He really loved the Church.
Over the past ten years, Pat and Harriett have resided in homes in both Clarksville TN and the Tampa area where they have enjoyed the visits of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Francis Patrick McDermott, Pat, Dad, or Ahpa will be forever missed. No one can ever take his place or match his uniqueness.
Pat is preceeded in death by his daughter, Anne, and survived by his wife, Harriett, and children--Mary Yarnall (EdM, White Plains, NY) and her husband Tom; Patrick K. (LTC, USA(Ret.), Tampa, FL) and his wife Amy; and John F. (Pastor, Lawrence, KS) and his wife Pam. A Funeral Mass will be held at Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Palm Harbor, FL at 10 am on Tuesday, 6 December with the funeral at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL at 11:30 am on Wednesday, 7 December. In lieu of flowers, Pat’s family requests you spend quality time with your family and make a donation to Feed The Children, Food for the Poor, or Catholic Charities.