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Jewelry, faith and fun – that was John Patrell

Addison Township resident John Patrell and his puppet, Tyrone, ride in the 2006 Strawberry Festival parade in the Village of Leonard. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
December 18, 2013 - There were a lot of facets to John Patrell's personality.

He was a man of faith who believed in helping others near and far, but he didn't take himself too seriously.

Patrell loved a good joke, spending time on the golf course with friends and introducing people to his alter ego, a little puppet named Tyrone.

"He was someone that always wanted to make people laugh," said his daughter Toni Futo, of Warren. "He loved to make people laugh."

Sadly, the Addison Township resident passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. He was 88.

Born in Detroit on April 26, 1925, Patrell purchased some property on Lakeville Lake in 1960 and built a cottage there.

Later in the 1960s, he and his wife, Kathryn, turned their cottage into a home and moved there. They had been together for 57 years when she died in December 2004.

Early in his life, Patrell spent 15 years working as a police officer for the City of Detroit. He later went into the bar business, owning numerous establishments over the years.

Although enforcing the law and running bars paid the bills, Patrell's true passion was repairing watches and creating jewelry ranging from necklaces to bracelets.

"He loved working with his hands," Futo said. "He liked being creative. He designed quite a bit of jewelry. He designed my wedding ring. He loved tinkering with stuff. He wasn't one to sit around."

His interest in this area began at age 15 when he worked as a delivery boy for department stores in downtown Detroit.

His job was to pick up the broken watches and bring them in for repair. He learned how to fix them by observing the watchmaker at work.

Following his work with bombsights as part of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Patrell continued working on watches and creating beautiful jewelry.

He later worked for Acheson Jewelers, which was located in downtown Oxford from 1928-94. He also repaired watches for five different jewelry stores in Rochester, Romeo and Birmingham.

Being a devout, lifelong Catholic, rosaries were one of Patrell's favorite items to make. A member of St. Clement of Rome in Romeo, Patrell was part of a small group of folks that made and mailed rosaries to parishes around the world.

"He started doing that after my mom passed (away)," Futo said. "He made over 3,000 rosaries and sent them everywhere. They called him Mr. Rosary."

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Patrell took it upon himself to personally make 375 rosaries and send them to a parish in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"He was very generous and kindhearted," Futo said.

Most of the rosaries he made contained either jewels or colorful beads, but Patrell was known to make black-and-white ones for those serving in the military who didn't wish for them to clash with their uniforms.

Over the years, Patrell became a well-known character in the Oxford/Addison area.

His name was frequently mentioned in the Jim's Jottings column penned by his close friend and golf partner Jim Sherman, Sr., former publisher of The Oxford Leader.

Sherman's blurbs almost always involved something humorous that Patrell said or did.

In January 2012, Sherman wrote, "When I met John Patrell, he said the Dead Sea was only sick when he was born. He was the first one I heard tell that joke. I had to call and tell him his joke finally made it big time. Steven Tyler, a host of American Idol, said it recently, 'When I was born, the Dead Sea was only sick.' Smile, John."

Patrell served as Grand Marshal of Leonard's annual Strawberry Festival parade in July 2006.

He proudly rode down Elmwood St. holding his beloved Tyrone, a furry puppet who, at the time, wore a green hat, vest, beads and sunglasses.

Patrell purchased Tyrone in Nashville, Tennessee more than 30 years ago and brought him everywhere from birthday parties and cruises to bars and golf courses. He enjoyed having Tyrone talk to folks of all ages and blow kisses to pretty girls.

Patrell was a member of the Rochester-North Oakland Elks Lodge #2225 in Addison and the Knights of Columbus. He also served as an elected trustee on the Addison Township Board from 1976-92.

Patrell is survived by his daughters Toni (Greg) Futo and Cindy (David) Kalbfleisch, grandchildren Jacquelyn and Katrina Kalbfleisch, and great-granddaughter Abigail.

A funeral Mass was held on Monday, Dec. 16 at St. Clement of Rome Catholic Church in Romeo.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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