By Thelma D. Jones

Roberta Patrick; Courtesy of Author

The life and legacy of longtime Southwest community activist Roberta King Patrick, who passed on Oct. 30, was celebrated with a limited number of family members, neighbors and friends from the Southwest community whose lives she touched. Service was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street, SW, on Nov. 7. The following was extracted with permission from Mrs. Patrick’s obituary.

Roberta King Patrick was born on October 25, 1946 to the late Arlene and Willie King. She was raised and educated in the Southwest area of the District of Columbia.

Affectionately crowned the “Queen of SW,” she started volunteering at the Southwest Community House at the age of 20. Over her 40-year career, she was responsible for job employment/placement, food and toy drives and a multitude of other charitable acts. She was a humanitarian, self-taught and selfless. The wealth of knowledge and love she obtained serving the community earned her an induction into the Smithsonian African American Anacostia Museum. She is featured in the Urban Renewal exhibit “A Right to the City,” which can still be viewed today. Her heart was so big that she had enough love for her family, close friends and for the community.

Reunited in heaven with her beloved daughter Nicole Smallwood, this Queen leaves behind to cherish memories: two siblings, Tony Gee and Gloria Reed; her ex-husband Earl L. Patrick, Sr.; four children, Earl L., Patrick, Jr., Shun Patrick, Monique Patrick and Semaj Patrick and a host of grandchildren and other relatives and friends.

Below are tributes from a family member and current and former Southwest residents and friends.

Our Queen

“Queen King Patrick who guided my life.
Mother, best friend and most gracious wife.
You lived your life and served us all.
Whenever we fell, you’d cushioned our fall.
Unconditional love flowed through your blood.
It’s kinda hard to imagine losing that type of love.
SW imperious, Smithsonian honoree, Queen of the South,
Best mom you could be!
Jobs, food, Christmas toys.
Your community work won’t be ignored.
You loved SW and treasured us all.
Life lessons from you are lived by us all.
Your babies, grands and great grands will always miss you.
I’m proud I had the last chance to kiss you.
The work that you’ve done can’t be measured in amounts.
Thanks for showing us what life’s all about.
For the rest of our days we’ll remember all you’ve done and said.
Just one last question Momma.
Now who’s gonna call me meat head???”

Semaj Patrick, Son

“Ms. Patrick was an Angel who served her community and family with love, care and a spirit of compassion for all. She worked tirelessly to improve the lives of our youth, seniors and less fortunate. To God be the glory for sending her into our lives. THANKS Roberta! RIP.”

Willie Borden, #4 Boy’s & Girl’s Club

“Mrs. Patrick was a staple in many of our lives. She gave my father Iran Reynolds his first job and gave my mother Joanne Paylor a place to volunteer with her at the SW House to prepare baskets for the community. I then received the benefits of Mrs. Patrick’s philanthropy by being a part of the after school /recreational program they had for SW kids. She is a part of us and we are a part of her in its entirety of the SW history and culture. The SW House should be named after her and she should be included in its history in some shape or form.

Iram “Bang” Paylor, Long-Time SW Resident

“The Southwest Community has lost an ICON. When I think of Mrs. Roberta Patrick, the first thing that comes to my mind is jobs. She was the SW Community Department of Employment Services. Having casual conversation with community member past and present, they all had one thing in common. Mrs. Patrick secured their first job. As I took on the challenge some 15 years ago to give back to my community, I couldn’t help but follow the blueprint Mrs. Patrick and others had left behind.  As I reflect on my work in and around the community, I can’t help but seeing a carbon copy of the dedication and passion Mrs. Patrick had displayed during my childhood and as a young adult. She always had a listening ear whenever I had returned from a brief vacation, informing me and others about jobs or training opportunities that were available. She advised me on many occasions, including on how to successfully secure sponsors for SW Family Day, Toys 4 Tots, Turkey Drives and school supplies and job placement. Mrs. Roberta Patrick will be deeply missed. I just hope I can pass Mrs. Patrick’s blueprint to the next community ICON.”

Paul Taylor, Former Long-Time SW Resident & Executive Director, SW Comm-Unity Forum

“Mrs. Roberta Patrick, your service to the Southwest Community House has been a testimony of your love of our community.  Raising a family, nurturing neighborhood families, and fostering a sense of dignity are the lessons learned.  Please add my voice to the countless other voices wishing your family well.”

Kenneth J. Brewer Sr., Former Long-Time SW Resident

“She was STRONG with a Humbled Heart!

Mrs. Roberta Patrick was the epitome of community service…pillar of strength and encouragement to the Southwest community.  Definitely a queen with a loving and caring heart, Mrs. Patrick was a powerful woman who understood and exhibited the true meaning of humility. Truly a master at being genuinely interested in other people, this humble queen talked less and listened more. In conversation, she was more interested in hearing what you had to say than what she had to say. She strongly believed in others more than they believed in themselves. 

Mrs. Patrick’s character proved that she was a strong and faithful servant of the Lord… a true ambassador of God! Always encouraging everyone she encountered, she expressed her positive thoughts everyday with genuine words of encouragement. Through divine intervention and prayer, her motivational force was to inspire a brighter outlook on life, especially to those experiencing life’s adversities. Mrs. Patrick knew her purpose and served our community extraordinarily well! I am forever grateful for her contribution. I will miss her.

Love you, Mrs. Roberta Patrick!”

Arnice Mack, Long-Time SW Resident

“My early memories of Mrs. Roberta Patrick were at the Southwest House. She has always been a community activist and a giving spirit. She was helping folks that always needed help.”

Christine Spencer, Long-Time Southwest Resident, James Creek

“I first learned about Mrs. Roberta Patrick through her work at the Southwest House, which was known as one of the oldest social service organizations in the United States, and from the late Dale MacIver, former editor of The Southwester, who had encouraged me to meet her and other community leaders when I joined the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s board in 1982. It was, as Dale had suggested in so many ways, a “meeting of the minds.” I enthusiastically worked to help support Mrs. Patrick in the many challenging efforts that she embraced, championed and inspired, all with a sense of purpose and pride. Mrs. Patrick always wanted a better life for SW residents and spent much of her life in a selfless and relentless fashion in trying to help and encourage others toward self-sufficiency and greatness, often putting others before herself.

When my son Jamal needed a project to complete his Eagle Scout requirements, it was Mrs. Patrick who welcomed his effort to organize a food drive to benefit the Southwest House. I remember it as though it was yesterday: “Sure! That will be great! What do you need for me to do?” When we arrived with the food at the Southwest House after a more than four-hour stint at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, she was there with a smile, opened arms and welcomed volunteers to help unload the heavy boxes of food that generously feed at least eight families. Now, as I reflect on that day, the look on her face was one of sheer gratitude and contentment in knowing that she could help more families in need during the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Southwest, the city, and the country could use a few more Roberta Patricks. Her legacy will live on in the annals of SW, not just because of her caring, giving and enthusiasm, but also because she believed in a better life for others and pursued her belief with passion and a vengeance. She will always be remembered by the people whose lives she touched and changed, including mine and Jamal’s, who earned his Eagle Scout in 2000.”

Thelma D. Jones, Community Activist and Breast Health Advocate

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