Pat Searle, known by those who loved her as “Patsy,” “Shorty,” or “Grandma Sugar,” departed from us peacefully at home on Nov. 29, 2020 at the age of 87, surrounded by her children. Pat’s life was dedicated to joyful sacrifice and service to her family, community, parish, and God.
Born Patricia Ethel Govert on Feb. 13, 1933, in Griffith, Indiana, Pat was the youngest of six children to John Govert, a railroad car inspector, and his wife, Mayme Miller, a stay-at-home mom who often took in boarders to support the family.
Pat and her siblings grew up in Griffith during the depths of the Great Depression. In her teenage years, she worked as a soda jerk at The Nook, a diner and soda fountain downtown, while also attending Griffith High School, where her love for recreational sports saw her elected “most athletic” in her yearbook. After graduating high school in 1951 Pat got a job at Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, where she did clerical and filing work until her marriage four years later.
Pat met her husband, Paul Searle, at a Catholic Youth Association bowling event in 1953 while he was on leave from military service in Germany. She described being first attracted to Paul because she liked the way he acted — he was the “quiet one” and she was “the mouth.” They married on August 13, 1955 in St. Mary’s Church in Griffith and settled down in Lowell, IN, where they farmed corn, wheat, alfalfa, and soybeans for nearly 40 years.
Pat always said that she and Paul decided to have children “whenever the Lord gave them to us.” She was ultimately blessed with seventeen children, all single births delivered within a 21-year span. In between and in addition to farming with Paul, she ran the household, garden and kitchen for a family the size and temperament of a small army while also managing the schooling, extracurricular activities, and behavior of her numerous charges. On top of that, Pat found time to regularly give back to the local community. She was a frequent and committed volunteer at school and church functions and ran her precinct for several years as an election inspector.
As a crop farmer and a full-time mother and homemaker, Paul and Pat put each of the seventeen children through Lowell High School, which presented them with a plaque upon the graduation of her youngest. Pat’s children remember that higher education wasn’t necessarily a focus for her — she never harped on their studies, and asked only for them to try their best and learn from their mistakes. Regardless, all seventeen went on to graduate from college or trade schools, and have since moved on to start their own families and careers from coast to coast.
Pat’s maternal compassion and caretaking were not limited to her own family. She frequently held crying babies in restaurants so that their parents could eat in peace and made a lifelong habit of opening her home, affectionately known as “the farm,” to all in need of a place to stay, eat, or be. Under Pat’s steadfast nurturing, the farm has grown into a gathering spot and home-away-from-home for countless children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors alike over the past seven decades.
Central to Pat’s being was her love for and dedication to her Catholic faith. She was active in her beloved St Edward parish, and served as an RCIA educator, lector, Extraordinary Minister, and funeral choir member. Pat’s faith extended beyond the walls of the church, though, and was evident in her outlook and how she chose to live her life as a good and faithful servant.
Pat will be remembered for her “independent” stubborn streak and warm, sometimes mischievous smile. She loved a mean game of pinochle and always had a pencil behind her ear. She was known affectionately among her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren as “Grandma Sugar” for providing them endless treats from her legendary candy jars and making her own chocolate-dipped candies by the hundred, as well as her affectionate nickname for family members, "Sugar." Pat harbored an unyielding devotion to the Chicago Cubs and enjoyed watching their games the same way she did her kids’ athletic events: vociferously and not objectively. She loved laughing and bickering with her beloved sister, Lorraine, with whom she shared a close relationship until her death in 2018. Pat’s life was spent praying for the best, preparing for the worst, and joyfully accepting what comes. Her humility and authenticity were reflected in her life of exceptional service to others.
Pat is survived by her loving and grateful family, including her seventeen children: Patrick (Carol) of Wichita, KS, Paula (Larry) Swinyer of Champaign, IL, Peggy (Fred) Wall of Otsego, MI, Mary Searle of Chicago, IL, Clare (Chuck) Harmston of Menomonie, WI, John (Mindy) of Elmhurst, IL, Kathy (Bob) Brann of Corydon, IN, George (Lorrie) of Schaumburg, IL, Colette (Dan) Sturm of Brookfield, CT, Regina (Bob) Balash of Merrillville, IN, Joan (Mark) DeWael Chatterson of Greenfield, IN, Beth (Ken) Hall of Lafayette, IN, Barb Houpt of Portage, IN, Joe (Suzanne) of Scottsdale, AZ, Mike (Jen) of Fountain Hills, AZ, Rob (Arlene) of Chicago, IL and Ann (Jason) Rosing of Tempe, AZ; 57 grandchildren; 37 great grandchildren and 20 nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by Paul, her husband of 58 years, her siblings: Evelyn Swaim, John (“Bud”), Earl, Lorraine Herod, and Lester; her brothers-in-law Louis and Durand; and her son-in-law Bruce DeWael and daughter-in-law Nora Searle.
Due to COVID restrictions, to keep everyone safe and to Honor that Pat’s “family” extended far beyond biological bond, there will be a large celebration of life when we can safely gather this summer. Please go to http://patricia.searle.family/ and add your contact information so we can let you know as we plan this.
Private Family Services in St Edward Catholic Church, 215 S. Nichols St., will begin Thursday, December 3 at 10:30 with Rosary Services followed by Funeral Mass at 11:00 a.m. CT, which will be live streamed at Sheets Funeral Home & Cremation Services Facebook Page. Private Burial will follow in St. Edward Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations be made to St. Edward Catholic Church.