Patsy Ruth Perkins

Obituary of Patsy Ruth Van Etten Perkins


Patsy Ruth Van Etten Perkins, 93, died peacefully on June 1, 2019, at the Garden Ridge Rehabilitation Center.  Born on November 23, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York, Pat (who insisted on being called Pat rather than Patsy) grew up on Long Island, New York, graduating from Bayside High School in 1943. She initially attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and in 1952 worked as an X-Ray diffraction lab technician in Sylvania Electric Corporation’s Metallurgy Laboratory in Bayside, New York, in order to put herself through college and night school at Hofstra University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree (physics) from Hofstra, Long Island, New York, in 1953.

While in college, Pat met John Perkins on a blind date arranged by John’s brother Bruce, who happened to be dating one of Pat’s friends. Pat and John married in 1952, and they lived in Buffalo, New York. A few years later, when the US government offered John a position in Washington, DC, they moved to North Springfield, Virginia.

Pat worked at home, helping raise two children, Janet and Charles. While they were young, she drove a school bus for Fairfax County.  In 1961, she signed up to be a Brownie Scout co-leader with Norma Jones. Over the next 58 years they developed a profound friendship that had lasting effects on both families.

Through scouting and beyond, Pat shared her love of the outdoors, nature, and birds in particular. In 1981, she and friend Mary Olsen built one of the first floating loon islands in Maine, providing a safe nesting area to help increase the loon population. Watching and hearing the loons, participating in the annual loon count, and seeing the loon chicks mature were highlights of staying at the family cabin. Often, Pat admonished boaters who came too close to the nest or threatened to shoot predator snapping turtles if she saw them (even though she didn’t own a gun!).

Pat and John spent many summers on Lake Androscoggin in Maine with their family. Having learned to sail at a young age, she taught John the ropes, and it became an activity they enjoyed together. With two sunfish (sailboats) that traveled between Maine and Virginia, they participated in races and other sailing events. Pat also taught her children and some of her grandchildren to sail and canoe. Motorboat trips to see the eagles on Northrop Island were also a boating tradition.

You may have heard Pat refer to her “clandestine society” where she was active for over 45 years. Having overcome many hardships in her earlier years, her life experiences, wisdom, common sense, and direct manner of speaking were (usually) valued by members. She was a mentor and friend to many.

Pat’s hobbies included raising and training her two poodles and several dachshunds; singing—she had a song for everyone and everything; playing piano; playing in a handbell choir; working crossword puzzles; collecting state quarters and other coins; mechanical tinkering; perfecting use of her bread machine; and negotiating with John for just one more bowl of ice cream. Lesser known hobbies were photography (birds) and playing video games like Tetris—until she sprained her thumb from pressing the button so hard—Pac-Man, and Space Invaders. Friends describe Pat as “fun,” a “character,” and a person with a “quirky sense of humor.”

Pat was predeceased by her granddaughter, Jennifer Bernhards. Pat is survived by her beloved husband of 66 years, John; daughter Janet Bernhards and husband Victor of Springfield, Virginia; son Charles and wife Nancy of Midland, Virginia; grandchildren Brian Bernhards, John, Samuel, Hannah, and Abigail Perkins, and Mark Hatfield; and three great-grandchildren. She leaves behind niece Susan Van Etten and husband Irving Weisenfeld of Brooklyn, New York, and numerous cousins.

A private celebration of life will be held at a later date in Springfield, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to one of the following: the Jennifer Lynn Bernhards Memorial Scholarship with payment addressed to Grace Presbyterian Church, 7434 Bath St., Springfield, VA 22150; the National Brain Tumor Society (online or by check) 55 Chapel Street, Suite 200, Newton, MA 02458; or to a charity of your choice.

A Memorial Tree was planted for Patsy Ruth
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Direct Cremation Services of Virginia
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