Harry's Gang: Patty was an inspiration
July 1, 2022
I owe my career to Patty Murto, and now that she's no longer around to thank, Jana is letting me do it through this column.
Not that I haven't thanked her before. Over the years, I told Patty plenty of times that she's responsible for getting me started in my own law practice, and she always pretty much responded in the same way - "nonchalantly" is the best way to put it. Patty was one of the rare do-gooders in this world who were not in it for the glory. Nor was she in it for the power. I don't know why she was in the do-gooder game. I guess I'll never understand it.
Patty died of cancer last weekend, and we all knew it was coming. I first met Patty when I was the new attorney at the Newby Law office in 1999. She ran what was called the Volunteer Attorney Program which, as you may guess, matched willing attorneys to people who just couldn't afford a lawyer. She was good at it, too. Patty had a way of asking that was impossible to turn down. In fact, I remember Butch Newby telling me, "Don't answer her calls when you're busy with your paying clients." But I always answered her calls anyway.
Patty had two gracious habits when she asked me to volunteer for one of her clients. First, she didn't pressure me when I told her I was too busy to help. And second, she didn't keep talking on the phone whenever I told her I needed to go. She'd say, "OK, talk at you later." It was her way of respect; that she knew our time was valuable and if I needed to go, I needed to go. I wish more people did that.
She had one annoying habit, though. For the first few years I was on my own, she'd send me a client, saying, "There may be some money for you at the end, maybe." Of course, there never was. I finally told her that she didn't need to do that. But she also sent me many clients who could afford to pay at least something, which is what got my career going. I now tell new attorneys: Volunteer your services; it's a great way to build your reputation. Patty was the one responsible for getting me clients those first few years.
I'll tell you my favorite Patty story. I had taken a few volunteer cases, but I had never met Patty in person. One day, Grandpa Newby, the Harry of "Harry's Gang," asked me to find another guest panelist for his CAT-7 show. Just to play a prank on the old man, I thought it would be funny to find a woman (because I don't think Grandpa had ever had a woman on his show before), and a liberal, at that. So I called Patty, who was the most liberal woman I knew. She agreed to come on "Harry's Gang," so I arrived early to watch the fireworks. When she walked into the studio, Grandpa casually said, "Hi, Patty" and the two started chatting. It turned out they had been old friends, both heavily involved in the community, and had a lot of catching up to do. There were no fireworks.
She was also responsible for my political career. She had been encouraging me to run for public office for years, and started grooming me about a decade ago. Many people think Patty was some wild progressive, but she's actually quite practical and reasonable. She knew how to get things done, and she knew how to give others credit. By the time there was an opening, Patty called me and told me I was ready. I guess we'll find out, but I do know I would not have been prepared for public office if it weren't for Patty Murto.
As Patty slowed down, I started to realize the immense impact she had on the lives of many people in our area. I can't count the calls I've had where people tell me the same stories about Patty - how she helped them; how she advocated for them; how she was tough; how she was persistent. How she took little credit for the results she got. And how grateful these people are for having had Patty Murto in their lives.
To me, she was an inspiration. She was also smart, funny, sweet, and caring. She probably touched more lives in her lifetime than all of us reading this newspaper today will do in our lives, combined. It's going to take a lot of us to fill her shoes.
Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News. His opinions are his own. While his column has been on hiatus because he is running for politcal office, we could not give proper tribute to Patty Murto without hearing from him. Contact Pete at [email protected].