His customers visited as much for the eggs over easy as to watch Don Patrick perfect the art of poetry in motion, herding homefries, eggs, toast and bacon around the grill without ever appearing to break a sweat, even on a hot August weekend.
Those customers are invited to gather this weekend, along with friends and family members, at a memorial service for the man who was grill master of the Dock Street Coffee Shop in Edgartown for nearly three decades.
Don Patrick died Sept. 26 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital following a battle with cancer. He was 71. A service will be held Saturday, Nov. 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Vineyard Haven.
Donald Wayne Patrick was born in Bangor, Me., and moved to Martha’s Vineyard after an eight-year career in the army. On the Island he gravitated to the restaurant business, working for the Black Dog for 10 years and then at Helios in West Tisbury for six years. He moved over to the Dock Street Coffee Shop at the foot of Main street in Edgartown, where he remained for 26 years.
Mr. Patrick was a quiet yet commanding presence in front of the grill. “Long and tall and smooth. He never gets ruffled. He has such a system about it. He can reach anything,” Dock Street owner Mary Sobel told the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine in a 2002 story.
Walter Cronkite liked to eat at Dock Street. But when Mr. Patrick was asked in an interview with the Gazette in March 2012 after the announcement of his retirement whether he had served any famous clients over the years, he replied in true grill master fashion: “Yes, but when I’m working my back’s to them. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyways.”
His son Darren noted in the article that his father “knows people not by name but by what they eat.”
Mr. Patrick was also considered one of the elders of the substance abuse recovery community on the Vineyard. “He helped hundreds of people in his life,” said Colleen Patrick, his former wife. “That was his thing. He was a great inspiration to a lot of people.”
Although his cooking and cooking style spoke loudest at the diner, his words carried the day for many people struggling with addiction. “He was a quiet man but was especially good one-on-one at listening and counseling,” Mrs. Patrick said, adding that he went to several meetings a week to help others. “He just loved those meetings. It was his life. It certainly saved his life.”
He was remembered with deep affection by many.
“I could talk about my friend Don till the cows come home and the lambs are born next spring in Chilmark,” wrote Dana Anderson, a former longtime Edgartown resident, town selectman and downtown bookstore owner, in an email to the Gazette. “I loved him. I met him personally 24 years ago this past June when I walked into a meeting on a Wednesday night in the parish hall of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown. Though he did not speak often about much to anyone, that night he looked up from his seat in the middle of the long table, smiled at me as if we had known each other forever, and said ‘Welcome. Sit down.’”
She continued: “I had known him before that and ever after as THE cook at Dock Street Coffee Shop. No one else cooked eggs and pancakes and meats and home fries with such a graceful economy of motion. I see him clearly, still: gaunt and symphonic, with silver and turquoise on every finger.
“And I miss him and am ever grateful for his friendship.”
Mr. Patrick is survived by a brother, Perley Patrick; his wife Carla; two sons, Sean and Darren Patrick; and his first wife Colleen Patrick.
Donations to the creation of a small memorial in his name may be sent to the Donald Patrick Memorial Fund, care of Sean Patrick, 82 Chase Lane, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.