Loss of rodeo champ mourned

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 6, 2002

Features Editor

Patrick Smith died doing what he loved.

The Troy State University sophomore, who was actively involved in bringing a rodeo program to campus, died Tuesday morning as a result of an injury sustained in a bareback riding accident at a rodeo in Shelbyville, Tenn. Saturday night.

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"The rodeo was Patrick’s love," said Jean Laliberte, fund-raising chairperson for the TSU rodeo team. "He was a great kid and this is a terrible loss, but Patrick would want us to celebrate his life. That’s the kind of person he was and that’s what we are trying to do, but, right now it’s so hard."

Patrick was a leadership scholar at TSU and worked in the office of the director of development.

"We knew Patrick as a student and as a potential student athlete," Laliberte said. "He was very involved in the rodeo program here at TSU. I sat across from him the other day at a rodeo advisory committee meeting. And, he was scheduled to speak at the Troy Rotary Club next week about our rodeo program. Patrick loved the rodeo. He was one of our best emissaries in telling about our rodeo program."

Patrick’s parents, Ben Smith and Angela Smith, are also involved in the TSU rodeo program and know how much it meant to their son.

"They, nor Patrick, would want this accident to have a negative impact on the rodeo program at Troy State," Laliberte said. "In fact, the family has requested no flowers, instead, they have asked that contributions be made to the TSU rodeo program. We know that would make Patrick happy. He would want that."

Laliberte said there are dangers inherent in any sport, but the most frequent injury in collegiate rodeo occurs in the goat tying event.

"Girls sometimes get tangled when attempting to tie the goat and injure a knee, but what happened to Patrick was a freak accident with devastating results," she said. "It’s such a tragic loss."

Jack Hawkins Jr., chancellor of the TSU System, said Patrick exemplified the ideal of the student-athlete.

"The Troy State University family is saddened by this tragedy," Hawkins said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Patrick’s family and friends."

Patrick, of Banks,

was a graduate of Charles Henderson High School and was majoring in business at TSU.

Losing a family member to death is never easy.

When it’s a young person, it’s especially hard.

For the family of Patrick Smith, the tragedy of his death compounded the loss.

Sarah Bowden was Patrick’s aunt "by marriage," but she loved him dearly. He was family to her.

"I was Patrick’s great-great aunt, but he called me Aunt Sarah," she said. "The thing I remember most about Patrick was his gentle, kind nature. He was good to all ages. It didn’t matter whether you were a senior citizen or a 10-year old, Patrick had time to talk to you and make you feel special."

Patrick was a tall, and rather lanky, young man.

"When he looked down at me from way up there, he made me feel as tall as he was," said Aunt Sarah who stands not much more than five feet.

She also remembers Patrick’s slow smile.

"That smile would start slowly and spread across his face and light up his eyes," she said. "I can see it right now. He was a real blessing to all his family."

Mrs. Bowden also remembers Patrick’s special relationship with his mother.

"Angela liked to tell stories about Patrick – with him standing right there," she said. "As she told the story, she would look up at him to get his reaction and he never seemed to mind her telling those stories. I thought that was so wonderful for them to have that kind of relationship."

A memory of Patrick that will always be with Mrs. Bowden is of this past Thanksgiving.

"Patrick had dinner with us, he and his good friend and my great nephew Chase Flowers," Mrs. Bowden said. "We had such a wonderful day together. We were so thankful to have him with us and so blessed that he graced our table. We were richer for having had him here. We are richer for having known him and, certainly for loving him."

School was not Patrick Smith’s thing, said Marna Barnett, a teacher at Charles Henderson High School.

"It was a means to an end for Patrick," she said. "He tolerated it quite well, but it was not his forte. He was a really smart young man and he did what was required of him in school. He was a sweet kid and a kind-hearted person, but the rodeo was his passion. And, he was so laid back. I would tease him and tell him I couldn’t believe he could ever get excited enough to get on a bucking horse."

But, any time there was a rodeo anywhere around Mrs. Barnett said Patrick would pack his bag, climb in his truck and go off to one rodeo on Friday night and another on Saturday night.

"Patrick did his own thing," Mrs. Barnett said. "He didn’t care what the other kids said. He wanted to rodeo and that’s what he did. He was popular with the other students and I think they all respected him for being the individual he was."

Mrs. Barnett’s husband is in the Pike County Cattleman’s Association with Patrick’s dad, Ben.

"When Patrick was riding in the rodeo here, I made sure I was there to see him ride," she said. "I was there the night he broke his arm and he seemed a little embarrassed that I saw him. He was quite a kid.

"It’s not right that we keep losing our young people. It’s not supposed to be like this. Patrick wasn’t doing anything he wasn’t supposed to do. He was doing what he loved. Some people say you’d have to be crazy to get on a bucking horse, but

that’s what Patrick loved. That was his passion. He wouldn’t have wanted life any other way."