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Former Mrs. Oktoberfest, long-time La Crosse volunteer dies

By Lou Hillman, lhillman@wkbt.com
Published On: Nov 19 2012 11:30:18 AM CST
Updated On: Nov 19 2012 11:26:04 AM CST

Kevin Buelow, Oktoberfest Board of Directors

Mary Patros

LA CROSSE, Wis.   -

Funeral services are set for Mary Patros, former Mrs. Oktoberfest and well-known member of the La Crosse community.

Patros’ funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, November 24 at North Presbyterian Church in La Crosse. Her visitation will be on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to services Saturday at the church. The Schumacher-Kish Funeral home of La Crosse is handling the arrangements.

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Many people in the La Crosse community are mourning the loss of a local icon.

Mary Patros died peacefully Sunday at the age of 93, with one of her daughter's at her side.

Patros was a fixture in the community for decades, volunteering countless hours of her time with at least 20 local organizations. If you ever met her, there's a good chance she was going to snap your photo.

"She would line us up and say 'no talking'," laughed Steve Webster, who was the Oktoberfest Festmaster in 1998. That's the year Patros was crowned Mrs. Oktoberfest.

"She'd tell us where to stand, how to stand and what to do and she was the only one that could get away with it," said Lori Van Lin, director of volunteer services at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital.

Taking pictures was just one of the countless ways Patros volunteered her time over the last five decades.

"She volunteered 24/7, literally. The important thing is she cared about the people she was volunteering with. She really cared," said Webster.

In July, Patros was recognized for 50+ years of volunteering at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital. She logged more than 30,000 volunteer hours, which is still the most in hospital history.

At the time, Patros said a promise to her husband to stop playing poker is what paved the way for a life of philanthropy.

"He never wanted me to play cards. He says ' you lose anyway'," said Patros in July.

"Even as she grew older, she was still running around, taking pictures, volunteering and doing other things," said Erik Gundersen, the senior vice president of the Gundersen Lutheran Foundation.

"Her little furnace inside of her that made her go, (that) ran a lot hotter than most people and she put that to good use," said Gundersen.

Patros was still volunteering up until a few weeks ago when she started getting sick. Those who knew her say she wouldn't have had it any other way.

"She was a role model for the rest of us. I will never have the energy level that she had but I think she had that energy because she loved what she did I think that's what made her happy," said Van Lin.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been set for Patros. Her husband passed away several years ago. They were parents to seven children.

List of organization's that Patros volunteered with:

Lutheran Hospital Auxiliary, Gundersen Lutheran Partners, St. Elias Orthodox Church Ladies Society, Variety Singers, La Crosse Women's Shrine Auxiliary, Lutheran Hospital Care Connection, H.J. Olson Senior Citizens Group, Moose Lodge, VFW, American Legion, Gundersen Lutheran Health Plan - Senior Preferred Board, Central High School Alumni Board, Children's Miracle Network Telethon, Oktoberfest, YWCA, Causeway's Jazz on the Green, Riverfest Commodores, La Crosse Symphony, AARP, Alzheimer's Group.

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