In Memory - Pat Shields

"Neat are you for calling me neat." No truer words have ever been spoken, by my friend Pat; occasional writer, long-time musician, amateur philosopher, and always a funny guy. As I write this, nearly a year after his passing, it’s still hard for me to believe that I’m talking about him in the past tense. It’s as if part of me is expecting him to return from a long fishing trip, tanned, and filled with fresh stories about carp noise makers and the big bass he “should have had”.

We first met back in high school. Since Pat was a grade ahead of me, which was a big deal in school, I’m not positive how we met, but my first guess is in a bowling league at the Burnsville Bowl. I’m not sure why, but a bunch of us decided to join a bowling league, even though most of us, myself included, had never bowled before. Many of the people in that league ended up being my friends all through high school, and I am still in contact with most of them.


I started playing bass guitar in junior high, and Pat had played electric guitar since I’m not sure when. At some point I started dragging my bass, and “das speaker, das heavy”, over to his house, and we would jam out. With no drummer and no singer, we did only instrumentals, and I don’t recall playing too many songs all the way through. The ones I remember most were “Dazed and Cat-fused” and an endless Black Sabbath medley. Once, we suddenly broke out in a spontaneous rendition of Johnny’s Cash’s, “I Walk the Line”, causing a to-be-unnamed friend to nearly pee his pants laughing.

Riding in the 442 was very cool. I’m sure this influenced my early perceptions of him. I’m not sure if this is the actual 442 he drove, but if not, it looked very similar.

For all about five people on Earth, there may seem to be some odd phrases in the above paragraphs. They are a bit difficult to explain. Pat kind of had his own language. It wasn’t his alone. A few of us encouraged, and help develop it, but he was really the chief architect. Cigarettes were “sawks” (spelling?), and then there was Pig German. Based on a beer poster in his basement, the general rules were saying “das” often, and adding suffixes such as “and tangy” and “schmengy”. “Das by itself could have several meanings. Depending on the inflection, it could mean “This is great”, “This is bad”, or “I agree”. A more complex example would be, “Das North Stars das chocked-an-miester to das evil das blacken hawkens”.

Ah, the North Stars. Being born in Canada, and possibly for other reasons I was never aware of, Pat was a huge hockey fan. Watching the North Stars on Spectrum was something many of us enjoyed together. Pat was the primary enforcer of superstitions. If they scored their first goal while you were in the kitchen getting a beer, you were instructed to stay there for the rest of the game. And heaven help you, if you said the word “shutout” when they had one going.

A few years after high school, in the mid-80s, Pat moved out to Mesa, Arizona. He would live there the rest of his life. This being pre-email, pre-cheap-long-distance, and let’s face it, guys just don’t write letters, I lost touch for quite some time. It wasn’t until the 2000s that I got back in touch, mostly through email. It was interesting to hear about his attempts to get his short stories published, his continued interest in playing guitar, being a hockey fan in AZ (his allegiance shifted to the Yotes), and his cab driving stories. Among other things, I told him about writing motorcycle race articles, playing bass again, and being in a band. We often brought up a reunion jam, but the 1800 miles between us made that more of a pipe dream (no double-meaning intended) than anything.

Pat never seemed to tire of the beautiful Arizona sunsets. This is one of many shots he posted on his FB account.

My wife, Steph, and I got down to Arizona in January 2011. We thought we would escape the Minnesota winter for a while, and I would get to see Pat for the first time in over 20 years. It was great seeing him again. We were pestered by a bad magician at one of the restaurants we went to, which was fun. Pat had a way of making fun of people without being mean-spirited about it, or in some cases, without the person even noticing. We did not have our reunion jam. About halfway through the trip, Steph surprised me by saying she would like to move here. Figuring that we would have plenty of opportunities to play together once we moved, I didn’t give the jam a high priority.

We went down again the following January, kind of as a scouting trip. We had a few things planned with Pat, but he ended up canceling out of both, because he wasn’t feeling well. It was a few months later, when I got a call from our mutual friend, Rick, telling me Pat was in hospice. I was hoping there was some kind of miscommunication, so I contacted his parents and learned that he had been battling Cancer for 2 years, and this time, it had come back hard. I talked to him on the phone a few times, and booked a flight down there, but he passed away the day before I arrived.

Here is a slightly more recent photo. Late in his life, a “dog-like” cat, named Iggy, and Pat adopted each other.

Steph and I did end up moving there a few months later, not to far from his parents, actually. I miss the times I was planning on spending with him, if that makes any sense. The reunion jam was not meant to be. In retrospect, I am glad I did not see him at the very end of his life, because I’ve seen what Cancer does to a person, and wouldn’t have wanted that memory of him. I’m glad to instead remember our jam sessions, watching the North Star, fishing down at the pit, and the relatively recent encounter with the magician.

A while after I got back to Minnesota, I was able to organize a little get-together among many of the old gang. We tipped a few beers back and remembered our friend, Pat. We had not all been in the same place at the same time for a very long time. We were right by a lakeshore, and there may have been at least one line cast into the water while we were there.

The old gang, possibly a little grayer than when Pat still lived in MN. With all the cameras there, this somewhat grainy one is all I ended up with.

Pat Shields
Born October 14, 1960 at Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada
Lived in Welland, Ontario, Youngstown, NY, Fairport, NY, Cypress, CA, Burnsville, MN, and Mesa, AZ
Died on May 9, 2012 in Mesa, AZ

Note - I didn’t have much in the way of pictures of him or us together. I pulled all but the last one off his Facebook page. Not sure who to credit them too.