VANCOUVER, Wash. - The death last year of Hudson's Bay teacher and Naselle High School graduate Gordon Patterson is being featured on Oprah Winfrey's website (http://tinyurl.com/2fr7ebs) as part of her new "No Phone Zone" campaign.
The video clip, a little over a minute in length, honors the life of Gordon Patterson, a teacher killed in a Sept. 15 traffic crash by a distracted driver sending a text message. Antonio Cellestine was sentenced Jan. 22 to five years in prison for hit-and-run and vehicular homicide. Patterson, 50, was lawfully riding his bike on Northeast St. Johns Road when he was struck.
Patterson's wife Carrie testified before the Washington legislature about the new law that will make talking or texting on a cell phone while driving a primary offense in our state with a fine of $124 for the first offense beginning June 10. Carrie says, "Gordon began riding bicycles in college and did long-distance riding even before we met. He was very strict with our three children about wearing a helmet."
Patterson's story is among several throughout the United States featured on Oprah's website as part of the star's campaign urging motorists not to text while driving. The clip features photos of the popular teacher in his signature white lab coat, photos of the traffic crash and courtroom photos of Cellestine.
Carrie said the show's producers originally planned to air Patterson's segment on the TV show, but said they thought it would get more exposure this way. "I was really pleased with it," she related. "I thought they did a good job."
Carrie Patterson in a telephone interview Monday said, "When I arrived at the scene of the accident, my heart dropped. I recognized his new bike because of the saddle bags and I saw his new shoe and his water bottle in the road." She related, "We found out later the accident had happened 10 or 15 minutes before and Gordon was already in the ambulance."
She describes how her husband was much-loved by students and their three children, saying his death was senseless and preventable. Carrie and parents Lyle and Elaine Patterson of Longview recently received Hudson's Bay's coveted Employee Excellence Award posthumously.
"Because of a text message, my children lost their father," she said in the clip. "The driver will spend the next five years in prison, but my husband is gone forever."
Carrie said, "Last summer Gordon had talked with two friends and asked one to sing his favorite song, 'Be Thou My Vision' at his funeral and another to speak at it. At the time I thought that was not like Gordon, but now I realize this was all part of God's perfect timing. We have seen lots of things where we have been able to reach out to people because of this tragedy. This wasn't my choice to lose Gordon. We had retirement plans, dreams, lots of things we wanted to share yet. But our kids were older when it happened and I see every day how God is taking care of us."
A silent memorial bike-a-thon in honor of Patterson is scheduled for Saturday, May 22 beginning at Hudson's Bay High School in Vancouver at 9 a.m. and the public is invited to participate. More information about Gordon Patterson and his memorial can be found on Facebook. "We spelled his name 'Gorden Patterson' by mistake," Carrie said. "We found that his memorial page is a good way for students, their parents, and our friends to communicate."
The "No Phone Zone" campaign urges celebrities and private citizens alike to sign a pledge they will not text and drive. Winfrey also plans to launch a public service announcement to educate Americans about the deadly driving habits that kill nearly 6,000 people a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Students and faculty of Hudson's Bay have already latched on to the crusade. Signed "No Phone Zone" pledges are all over on the walls in the school's hallways.
"My hope is that some good can come out of this tragedy and this type of accident will never happen again" she concluded.