Inside the cavernous church, friends and family lined up beside Patmon’s casket, flanked by three firefighters and surrounded by bright yellow, purple and red flowers and large picture collages.
One by one, the mourners stooped over Patmon’s body, clad in a navy blue firefighter’s uniform. Some bowed their heads, others rested their hands on his coffin.
Outside, Patmon’s colleagues reminisced about the firefighter they knew as a diligent and good-natured force in the firehouse.
“He kept a smile no matter what happened,” said Lt. Evan Person, who knew Patmon for 18 years and used to rib him about joining the department later in life. “He wanted to be successful. He wanted to do well and he wanted to prove to everybody that he could still do it.”
Lt. Robert Eiland recalled Patmon as a team player who worked on the search and rescue team and the roof team, climbing to the top of burning buildings and venting roofs for the firefighters working inside.
“It’s dangerous, very dangerous,” Eiland said. “He was accurate. He was dependable.”
The department already was reeling from the death just nine days earlier of Capt. Herbert “Herbie” Johnson, a 32-year veteran who died while battling an extra-alarm blaze at a Gage Park residence.
Patmon’s widow, Diane, said during a wake Tuesday that she and daughters Windy, Kirby and Kirwin have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Since the tragedy, firefighters and their families have stopped by their home, bringing food and comfort, they said.
“It makes it a bit easier,” said Patmon, who talked to reporters outside the funeral home. “If I had to do this by myself, I wouldn’t be smiling.”