If you attended the University of Maine sometime during a 33-year period that ended in 2010, chances are you were taught or coached by Leroy Patterson. It didn’t matter what courses you studied or what sport you played. His classroom was the Orono campus. His lesson plans came from life’s experiences.

Patterson was a university cop. He was the face of law enforcement. Even more, he was its soul.

Patterson retired in 2010. He died from cancer two months ago. Sunday, two teams will skate onto the ice at Alfond Arena to play a hockey game in his memory and raise money for a scholarship fund in his name.

“He was the epitome of what a university police officer should be,” said Paul Culina, Maine’s head athletic trainer. “Leroy was more interested in helping students understand what they did was wrong rather than making them pay the price. He didn’t compromise. He talked to you.”

Athletic trainers are the gatekeepers of training rooms, helping athletes mend aching or broken bodies. Culina’s domain is off-limits to the media. He sees all but tells nothing. Over the past few days he’s probably given more interviews on Patterson and this hockey game than in his 17 years at Maine combined.

“It’s been unbelievable, really,” Culina said. “We have so many people who want to be part of this.”

Culina plays hockey for the Third Watch, a team of firefighters, policemen and EMTs from surrounding towns.

When Patterson was diagnosed, the Third Watch asked themselves what they could do. After he passed, they decided to play a hockey game for him. Culina, with his ties to the university, became the point man. He enlisted Bob Corkum, a Maine assistant hockey coach and university graduate, to find players to represent the school.

Corkum didn’t have a problem filling the roster for the UMaine Select Team. Tim Whitehead, the hockey head coach, is on board. So is Kent Salfi, a player from the 1993 national championship team. Matt Stairs, a former major league slugger who has made a home in Bangor, will play. Jack Cosgrove, the head football coach, will play.

“We had to put out an (all-points bulletin) for a pair of size 12 hockey skates for Jack,” said Culina. “I think it’s been 20 years since he was on skates.”

Cosgrove didn’t think twice about playing. “I’ve got a great slap shot. I played in high school (in Massachusetts). I know my way around the ice.”

Patterson, who shared a strong bond with Cosgove, was one of the few and maybe the only visible black authority figure outside Cosgrove’s staff. That meant something to the many African-American football players who were entering a predominately white world, some for the first time.

“We’ve had players who were worried about DWB (driving while black),” said Cosgrove. “Leroy was the voice of reason. He had a presence on campus. He knew how to quiet things down. He knew how to make (all) kids realize what they were doing was wrong. And he did it without compromising his job.”

Over the years, Patterson didn’t add many pounds to his athletic 6-foot-2 frame. He was a star football, basketball and baseball player at Bangor High in the early 1960s. For a time he was part of the university’s three-man mounted police detail.

He could be intimidating when, in fact, he was so approachable.

Recently, Culina visited the campus police office. Chief Roland Lacroix showed him one of his favorite photos of Patterson with a lost little boy at a Maine football game. The boy was in Patterson’s arms.

“He was a great role model to anybody,” said Culina. “He was a fan of all things Maine. He bled Maine blue.”

Most Third Watch games are fund-raisers with players drawn from a pool of available bodies. For this game, everyone wants in.

No admission will be charged to attend Sunday’s game, which begins at 6 p.m. Donations will be accepted with all money going directly to the scholarship fund, which benefits a Bangor High student planning to attend UMaine.

 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at [email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway