Reflecting on Friendships: Thankful for Pat

Reflecting on Friendships: Thankful for Pat

I never imagined that I would become a fourth generation Funeral Director; I guess my crystal ball was in the shop some 24 years ago.

For the last 23 years I have been on this amazing journey of having the privilege of walking along side the families in our community in their darkest hours. My career has become so much more than a job or a paycheck, this profession has so many teaching lessons. The number 1 lesson I have learned thus far is that relationships are key to our lives.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many of the families we have served and be blessed and humbled by them. But usually my time with our families is brief, I walk a part of the journey with them, hopefully equipping them to make the next steps in the best way they can. It’s different with my coworkers, the people of my everyday. But yes, I’m happy to say that because of these many years together, I have good, deep and treasured friendships with the team of people I work with.

One of my deepest & strongest relationships is with a dear colleague who I have known for the last 20 years. We have shared our lives together becoming part of each others’ family. In the twenty years we have known each other we have supported each other in births, birthdays, weddings, divorces, family issues, life’s victories and life’s struggles.


My dear friend Patricia Kolstad (our Journey Mercies blog series author) is now transitioning out of her full-time role as Director of Community Relationships & Resources to a part time role in our company. Pat has been the pioneer & leader in our profession for education within our community. I have had the privilege of watching her create an idea on a cocktail napkin that over the last 13 years has blossomed into a thriving and incredibly unique component of our local profession. As I write this, I have a great mix of emotions that run thru my mind and heart. I am always beaming with pride when I think about how many great relationships and connections Pat has made over the years. For me personally, I treasured Pat’s consistency in our relationship.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned from Pat:

  1. Life is Seasonal – If you embrace life and the changes that come your way, you can over come any obstacle that is on your path. Pat decided years ago to blaze her own path and she never looked back.
  2. Drive – When you give your 110% everyday of life you will go farther than you could ever dream of. Your drive can transcend you and affects others around you. Not many people even come close to the inner-drive I have witnessed in Pat. You would think after 20 plus year in this profession she would let up a little, but no, this grandma is still daily pushing the peddle to the metal!
  3. Care & Concern – When you have genuine care & concern for others you will never have regrets about how you have treated them.
  4. Consistency – This attribute makes for credibility in life, this is a discipline and a choice. Pat has not failed to be there for me, her constant and intentional friendship never faltered, she is someone I can rely on and trust.
  5. Truth – This has a different meaning to everyone. Pat’s truth (or core) has been one of love, compassion, honesty, care, concern, and an undying love for her friends and family.


Pat, I am grateful for my friendship with you, you have been a bright light in a sometimes dark world. You have become one of my greatest mentors and friends.

Your passion & contributions to our company, community and profession are only part of your legacy. Your legacy has been defined by your thoughts, words, actions, character, and your destiny. You have arrived . . . and the journey has just begun!


Namaste (I see the divine beauty in you) my friend!


I love you dearly Pat , thank you with gratitude.

– Neil


If you know Pat you are undoubtedly better for knowing her. Share your story about Pat below, it can be anything – we just want to make her day!!


If you don’t know Pat, do you have a friend, a family member or a colleague who has taught you a life lesson or two? 

By | 2012-11-19T05:00:21-08:00 November 19th, 2012|General, Inspiration|26 Comments


  1. Catherine Kelley November 19, 2012 at 8:30 am - Reply

    What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman! As a member of TIP I interact with Patricia often. She is warm, loving, thoughtful and all-round beautiful person!

    • Neil O'Connor November 21, 2012 at 6:22 am - Reply

      Hi Catherine –

      Thank you for your response. You are so right Pat is warm, loving and well rounded beautiful person. She is so loved at work some people call her Auntie Pat or Grandma Pat, I refer to her at times as Patty O, as part of our family. Thank you for your being part of the TIP team, we are grateful for your commitment to our community.

      • Patricia Kolstad November 26, 2012 at 11:01 am - Reply

        It has been such a pleasure and honor to know you and work beside you at TIP. What an extraordinary community partner TIP has been, and you are a large part of that. Without TIP and it’s incredible Volunteers, there would be families who would not feel the love and support that you show as they move through their crisis situation. You are a gift.


  2. Anne Collins November 19, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I joined the staff as a part-timer, quickly becoming a full timer after a month in Jan, 1996 and Pat and I ran the front office together. I learned everything about our profession from Pat. In those early days, we did everything in more manual ways and often typed burial permits in quadruplicate…Not fun! The directors leaned on us for so much more than is done by admin presently.
    We found out that both of our “first jobs” as adults was at World Savings and Loan in Lynwood. Both of us had ties to Bethany Church and Bethany School and the similarities continued from there.
    Except for owners, we are the two longest term members of the staff here. Both of us have a desire to mentor those who have come after.
    Now that Pat has moved to Laguna Woods, we realize that we shall watch out for each other for years to come. It is a beautiful tribute you gave to Pat, Neil. She has served you faithfully for a lot of years and she deserves the honor of this blog. Congratulations, Pat!
    I love you dearly,

    • Neil O'Connor November 21, 2012 at 6:28 am - Reply

      Hi Anne –

      Thank you for the flashbacks of being back in the day. Wow have we come a long way, I remember the fun we had when Jeff & I would play practical jokes on the two of you because we where slow, oh those where the days. I am grateful for our long term relationships we have had with each other. This has been one of the best journeys I have ever been on. You to are a valued and dear friend. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

      • Patricia Kolstad November 26, 2012 at 11:08 am - Reply

        Anne . .
        What a journey we have been on . . and the saga continues as we move through the next chapters. I’m very excited about the future for both of us. You are a dear and trusted friend and I cherish our long relationship. Thank you so much.



  3. Lori November 20, 2012 at 6:14 am - Reply

    I can understand why you treasure Pat so much. I started calling her Momma basically from the first minute we met. I knew I loved her and felt a connection to her before I even worked for O’Connor. I attended one of Bill Hoy’s presentations probably a year or more before joining the O’Connor team. I knew she was special from the start.
    Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to learn from her and grow in a loving friendship.
    It is bittersweet to see MP transition out of her full time role at work, but I know she will always have a full time role in my mind and heart.
    I love you Momma!!!
    Thanks Neil for letting everyone else know how special she is!
    Thank you too for the opportunity to walk into a special place each day where we not only serve families, but grow in love and service for one another.
    xoxo Lori

    • Neil O'Connor November 21, 2012 at 6:34 am - Reply

      Hi Lori –

      Thanks for your response. We have all been touched by a friend and hopefully a co-worker too. Pat has been a great role model for all of us. She spent 7 years in admin with Anne making us look good with our families, not an easy task. Now you have the pleasure of making us look good, and we appreciate your commitment to our community and company. I hope you find joy at work and you have deep meaningful relationships with your teammates. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Chuck Ricciardi November 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Patty Whack!

    Wow! What a journey it has been and will continue to be. One classic scenario that comes to mind is when Pat was basically a direct report of both Neil and I (The poor woman) We were all still cutting our teeth as executives and far from the fine well oiled machines we are today. (At least I would like to think so.) Poor Pat was like a ping pong ball. I would tell her one thing and Neil would tell her another and I’m sure her head was spinning. Neil and I would meet for our one on one and both of us would have a list of issues that Pat brought to each of us about each of us. Dysfunction is so fun to look back on. Of course the dreaded bench comes to mind. When ever a team member was called out to the bench they knew something was up, good, bad or indifferent something was up. Pat spent some quality time on that bench! I will let you decide what percentage of good, bad and indifferent she enjoyed. We have shared love, laughter, tears and fears with each other for over 20 years, I cherish each moment. Here is looking at you kid…

    love always,


    Besides s laughter tears

    • Neil O'Connor November 21, 2012 at 6:41 am - Reply

      Hi Chuck –

      No you didn’t just go there! Classic only you could make me flashback with the tears of pain and tears of laughter. “The Bench” ouch! It just goes to show you, what does not kill you can make you stronger. Poor Pat, she has a place in heaven for having to work with me, you had the easy job, the “Nice Cop”. Well, this journey has come full circle and here we go again, another day of creating meaningful and deep relationship. I am thankful for our friendship and your support, I could not do it without you, and I would not want to do it with out you either. You have been one of my biggest supporters and I truly grateful for YOU Charles! Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Lisa O'Connor November 21, 2012 at 7:26 am - Reply

    As your wife I find it endearing that Pat is sometimes referred to as your “work wife”. She is an amazing woman! I am thankful that she is in our lives and I love that our son has come to know her as Grammy Pat.

    • Neil O'Connor November 21, 2012 at 7:41 am - Reply

      Hi Lisa –

      Yes, it is nice to have two wives! I get in trouble at work and at home. We are blessed to have Grammy Pat in our lives!

  6. Diane Kopylow November 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    What an incredibly kind and loving way to express appreciation and gratitude to a woman we all admire and love because of who she is and what she does for others. You are fortunate to have spent so many years with Pat. I think everyone would agree she is a gem. What I loved, also, is reading what others have added about Pat, just more proof that she is loved by many for the same reasons we all see so clearly.

    • Neil O'Connor November 22, 2012 at 7:00 am - Reply

      Hi Diane –

      Thank you for your comments about Pat. You are so right she is a gem, I have been so blessed to be her life for 20 years. I hope you have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Shayna Mallik November 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for your blog. Pat is an amazing person and I look up to her dearly. I know how much she means to this company. The connection she has made in the community is such an accomplishment. She is definitely part of my family and I treasure her dearly. Thank you for sharing yours and Pats friendship.
    Also thank you for the opportunity to work with such amazing people. I love what I do and cherish every moment here at work. The relationships I have made with my coworkers is more than just people I work with but all of them are part of my family and I enjoy each day with them serving our families.
    Thank you again!!


    • Neil O'Connor November 22, 2012 at 7:04 am - Reply

      Hi Shayna –

      I love it! You get it, you understand that we can be more than just co-workers. We can become really good friends at work, when we allow our selves to be open and honest with each other. We can deepen our lives by deepening our relationships with the folks who we spend a majority of or time with. As you know we spend more time with our teammates than we spend with our families. Thank you for your leadership! I hope you have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for our friendship.

  8. GREG FORSTER November 21, 2012 at 5:29 pm - Reply


    This is a beautiful tribute written to show the impact that one person can indeed have on the lives of so many others, both individually and in communion with others in striving for a goal that is important to all of us in the O’Connor community. I especially agree with your description of her drive in reaching out with education to those around us from different backgrounds so that they will have better knowledge, better respect, for the good works that are accomplished here. Pat is a most accomplished individual, and, I am most sure that we are all eagerly awaiting to hear about her next project, her next goal.

    Did you mention her “transitioning”? Pat Kolstad? Certainly not to “retirement”. That’s way too far in the distance for her….she’s just moving on to her next great adventure.

    And, Pat, you’d BETTER tell us all about it as it unfolds, because, after all, we too want to keep being educated about life and all that it has to offer.

    Good Luck and Godspeed,

    Greg Forster

    • Neil O'Connor November 22, 2012 at 7:10 am - Reply

      Hi Greg –

      We are blessed to have Pat in our lives. She has spent countless hours helping our company & community with educational resources. Drive has been one of Pat’s many great qualities, she has overcome so many obstacles, her mantra has been Persistences wears down resistances. Greg I am grateful to be in your life as well. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  9. Molly November 22, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

    I am grateful for you & happy to have an opportunity through this post to document it and leave you something to look back on.

    I can’t remember not knowing you, “Aunt Pat” has always meant to me a beautiful, loving, generous woman who loved me especially well for not being a “real” aunt! I remember holidays at your home with the other little kids, the big stuffed animals you would give us – stuffed animals are still one of my favorite things. I treasure those memories and the fact that I’ve had such a beacon of love to me from those early years of my life. You are that place of unexpected love, I expect, and think it is right to expect, love from my parents and aunts and uncles, but many of us know or have special people in our lives who are given these special family labels not because there is blood relation but because there is so much love!
    You have overcome that boundary time and time again as you are included in so many families that count you one of their own on account of the love you share for each other.
    You amaze and inspire me. Your love overflows and the source of it, Jesus, shine through you. I am so blessed to call you my “Aunt Pat”.

    Love you,

    • Neil O'Connor November 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Molly –

      Thank you for your response. You have known Pat for longer than most everyone here at the company. I love the fact that you both have a great long lasting relationship. It is so awesome to see you two work together, you both complement each other so well. I am thankful for both of you.

  10. Carrie Bayer November 24, 2012 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Neil, what a great tribute to Pat! She has given me some great advice based on her life’s experience so as I find myself walking a similar path I can see the right direction to take. She is a wealth of knowledge, networks & subject matter expert- a wonderful resource for all. Thank you for sharing your love for Pat! XOXOX Carrie

    • Neil O'Connor November 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Carrie –

      Thank you for your response. I am glad you have a mentor here at our company that can give you worldly advise and a gentle encouragement of love when you need it.

  11. Fitz November 26, 2012 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Neil (Pat),

    What a deserving tribute to a great woman and role model to so many. I appreciate her so much for not only what she has done for the company but for me as well. She took on a position that was merely an idea and turned it into a the standard for the industry for those bold enough to go there.

    Pat is result an inspiration for her dedication to her own self development. She’s come a long way, baby.

    I also admire her for her unconditional love in her work and personal relationships. You can always count on Pat to be there.

    I am thankful she is in my life and only wish her all the best in the future.


    • Neil O'Connor November 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Fitz –

      Thank your for your response. Bold is Pat’s middle name, remember when she was the little timid housewife from the 1960’s. Look what we have turned her into, or she has turned her self into! What a great transformation to see! We are blessed to have Pat on our team, what a great journey we have been able to share with each other.

  12. Cathi Hartwell December 4, 2012 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I can not tell you how grateful I was to read your tribute to Pat…she is an amazing women who has genuinely touched my heart in so many ways I consider her one of my angels! A gift from God who at times, I beleive, has saved my life. Her compassion and kindness, her attitude and smile, and her heartfelt caring of everyone she encounters are qualities I could only hope to emulate. Thank you Pat for what you have given me. If I could be half the person you are and touch half the people you do, then I am a better person and you dear friend are the reason!

  13. kari Leslie December 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for the loving and precious tribute to my Momma!! She has come so far and I am so proud to be her daughter and friend. You have been instrumental in so many of her successes. Her life has been blessed by you, your family and her career here at O’Connor’s. I love and respect you both so much, and am blessed beyond measure.


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