When I heard about Patty’s condition, I went in to see her two Saturdays ago, expecting the worst.
When I got to Vantage House, she was alone, sitting in a chair in her room with perfect posture, perfectly coiffed, primly dressed and totally alert. I was quite surprised, and said, “Hi there Patty,” and in that sweet Norfolk drawl she answered back, “Well, hi there.”
I couldn’t tell whether she knew who I was, but she covered it perfectly. Then, suddenly, a Catholic priest entered, saying he was covering for the Episcopal minister who was out of town, and with great solemnity asked how she was doing. She answered back that she was doing just fine – but how was the priest doing? Was he feeling okay?
I nearly burst out laughing, shaking my head and saying to myself, “They just don’t make them like Patty anymore.” And I heard in the background her saying to the priest, “It was nice of you to stop by, and if I can help you at all, let me know.”
Patty sitting there in her nicely patterned wool suit and her lovely Southern manner and pattern of conversation brought a flood of memories back to me – of her and Jim, of many trips together, of the start of Enterprise 30 years ago, of all the wonderful people at Enterprise who cared so well for her and her appreciation of her Enterprise family, of her own family and all the Rouses, of the remarkable journey she took and the people she helped as part of a duo and in her own right.
I marveled at the journey Patty Rouse had taken. An independent Southern girl who won a sailing contest as a teenager, the first woman Commissioner of the Norfolk Public Housing Authority, a divorcee who struck out on her own and let a tennis match and Jim Rouse bring her north and into the maelstrom of real estate development and Enterprise and poor neighborhoods.
She adapted to her new life and became deeply involved at Enterprise as vice president and secretary and served on its various boards. She was always looking out for her Enterprise family, attending functions, giving Jim the high sign when his speeches went on too long, tending to the details, lending her support.
She never took credit herself, always saying “Jim did that,” but he couldn’t have and wouldn’t have done it without her support, help, encouragement and devotion. People at Enterprise understood that, I understood that, her family understood that.
Outside of Enterprise, she sat on a number of commissions, tasks forces and boards, but her heart was always with Jim Rouse, Enterprise and much of the mission work of Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C.
She took quite a journey and quite a risk, and after Jim died, she continued on and I was grateful that she was carrying on a legacy and living it every day, until she couldn’t anymore.
Enterprise has lost its other co-founder, but I believe, and I know Patty does too, what Patty and Jim Rouse did deserves to not only continue but to be multiplied many times. They weren’t casual about the importance of what they were doing and they gave up a lot to carry out their beliefs. They believed that those at Enterprise would be up to the task and do even more than they could imagine.
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