On April 24, 2019, this world may have lost one of its brightest souls, but heaven gained a new angel, who no doubt walked through St. Peter’s gates with a huge smile, an irreverent comment, and hopefully, a now penalty-free, Misty Menthol 100 balanced between her first two, perfectly manicured, fingers. To complete the picture, those nails were red—bright lipstick red—and Packers cheese-head earrings dangled from each ear.
Patty was born March 22, 1951 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended Mt. Calvary for grade school, where she routinely had to write sentences for talking and laughing too much at the wrong times, which thankfully in no way deterred her from continuing to do so for the rest of her life. She loved being with her sisters and brothers, but was usually the one who got in trouble, often for ripping her pants while playing at St. Catherine’s across the street from their house. While at Milwaukee Lutheran High School, she excelled at fun and friendship, didn’t do so hot in typing class, and defied her counselor’s recommendation that she be a secretary (she always questioned the competence of this person, given the typing situation) to follow her life-long dream of being a nurse. She married her high school sweetheart, and while that didn’t necessarily work out the best in the end (as she would say, “sh*t happens”), she always said it was God’s plan because it let another childhood dream of hers come true, having two daughters, Amy and Angie. She worked in the ICU at St. Joseph’s hospital, saving countless lives, comforting thousands of families, and handing out peppermints, earning her the nickname Peppermint Patty. Patty nursed the way she lived—110%, and not always entirely by the rules. She wasn’t the kind of person who could detach emotionally, so when she lost a patient, she hurt as if they were her own family.
Patty married the love of her life, Greg, hooking him in the head with a fishing hook on their honeymoon, and then, unable to stop laughing, had to take him to the ER to get it cut out. They loved to fish, have cocktails by the fire pit (Southern Comfort for her), play slots, do scratch-offs together, and sit in big, matching maroon recliners while cheering loudly (like...really loudly) for all Wisconsin teams, and then, Notre Dame teams. (Also tennis, but no one really understands that one.)
Patty was a consummate mom—the kind of mom who would tell off a teacher or another parent to protect her children or let her child sleep in and go to school late if they were just too tired that day (sleep was sacred to her...if you slept in, “you must have really needed it”). She fought tirelessly for her oldest, Amy, seeing doctors and counselors and every medical professional possible to make sure Amy had every possible chance for happiness and success. For Angie, Patty signed on every (even ill-advised) dotted line on loan applications to make sure Angie could attend Notre Dame, becoming such a huge fan of the Fighting Irish that she named not one, but two, of her dogs “Rudy”. She was quick with a hug, the big all-enveloping kind, and gave the best backrubs and back scratches, including to people she didn’t know all that well and often without permission—the look of surprise on their faces always melting into extreme satisfaction.
After Greg passed, she and her daughter Amy moved out to Delaware to be with Angie and her grandchildren, Nick and Matt. She continued nursing at Christiana Care until retirement, fed the entire bird and squirrel populations of Wilmington from her backyard, and cursed the stray cats that drove Rudy (the Second) crazy and scared away her birds. Every morning, she loved to sit and watch them eat, drinking her coffee, on the phone chatting with her sister Joann.
Patty didn’t actually live with her daughter Angie, but she may as well have, as she was with Angie and her family every single day. When her son-in-law Joe became sick and then passed away, she stepped in and became even more involved, cooking, driving (she referred to herself as “Grandma Uber”), and loving up her grandsons and daughter, lightening up the very darkest days with her love, laughter, and well-timed swears.
She was the perfect grandma, singing “You Are My Sunshine” and “I Love You, A Bushel and a Peck,” and also “playing” a polka on the accordion while tickling her grandsons’ ribs, the way she used to do with Amy and Angie when they were little. Grandma Patty was thrilled to gain two new granddaughters in Emily and Sami, and threw ALL rules out the windows when it came to her grandkids, from turning her glove compartment into a fully-stocked Starburst receptacle and serving ice cream for breakfast, to buying a huge, inflatable above-ground pool complete with electric filter (even after being specifically asked not to) for Angie’s yard once when Angie was out of town, because the kids wanted to swim that day.
Patty loved her garden and being outside, but HATED “that damn humidity.” She was a great baker, becoming somewhat famous for her cinnamon buns, and had the gift of being a bit of a tornado in the kitchen. Some of her favorite times were going back to Milwaukee to be with her brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews for the Fourth of July, watching the fireworks, sitting by the fire pit, and eating Mama Mia’s pizza (in contrast to every single American ever, she HATED east coast pizza). Patty absolutely lived life to the fullest, and everyone who knew her is going to miss her terribly. Since she got annoyed when obituaries didn’t say how people died, she would want you to know that she had a bowel obstruction following a bout of the stomach flu, but following surgery, her heart just couldn’t keep up with all of the treatment (probably because it had worked overtime through her entire life loving everyone around her beyond measure). Her daughter Angie and family were in Europe, and Patty held on until they returned home, passing away with all of them around her about an hour or so after they got to her side. She knew they would have so much to tell her, so much to say, and despite having heaven just a heartbeat away, she waited to give them that time with her, as her last gift to them while on earth. Her family knows that she will be giving signs that she is watching over them, sending lots of birds (and to whom she deems appropriate, the resulting bird poop).
Patty is predeceased by her parents Robert and Carole Lietz, her husband Greg Gauger, and her son-in-law Joe Priest. She is survived by many friends and family, including her brothers and sisters Bryan and Debbie Lietz, Joann and Mike Janssen, Ginny and Jim Braun, and John and Chris Lietz, her daughter Amy Rausch, her daughter and son-in-law Angie and John Flaherty, her grandchildren Nick, Matt, Emily, and Sami, and her absolutely beloved little doxie, Rudy. She is also survived by her east coast family that adopted her as one of their own (even allowing her to bring beef tenderloin to the Feast of the Seven Fishes Dinner, because the only fish she would eat was a Wisconsin fish fry): Jim and Catherine Priest, Flora and Bea Romeo, Maria and Jordan Schlump, James, Vickkie, Rocco and Giuliana Priest, Rob, Nicole and Eleanor Priest, and Grandmom Bea Romeo (her casino partner). The family would like to thank the amazing caregivers in the emergency department and Unit 2A of Christiana Care, and would also like especially to thank Zach Simmerman for taking such good care of her, particularly when we couldn’t be there.
A service will be held on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. at the McCrery & Harra Funeral Home, 3924 Concord Pike (Rt. 202 South of Silverside Road) Wilmington, DE 19803 where friends may call from 10:00-11:00 a.m. All are invited (encouraged!) to join us for a reception afterward at Walter’s, her very favorite restaurant in Delaware.