I don't remember the first time I met Patrick Shepard. It was more than 20 years ago and could have been at a Beltwide Cotton meeting, a cottonseed company field day or any of a multitude of agricultural meetings across the Cotton Belt.
Whatever the event was, I'm sure it included a lot of laughter, most likely a glass or two of a grape-related beverage and discussion about books and writing. Over the years, we've enjoyed many such interactions. We somehow got each other's warped sense of humor.
So, it was with more sadness than I can explain to have received word last week that Patrick had passed away. I will miss him. I will miss his eagerness to help me find great stories. I will miss his frequent written contributions to Farm Press. (He was a gifted writer.) And, most of all, I will miss his friendship.
For years, Patrick and I saved one evening during Beltwide for a buddy dinner. We picked a nice restaurant, usually the kind with white tablecloths and adult waiters. He often asked me to choose a wine, assuming, incorrectly, that I knew one from the other. Don't think we ever got a bad one.
When Beltwide was in New Orleans, we found a place with raw oysters, sometimes a sidewalk café with a Deep South attitude, and sometimes an upscale restaurant with menus in French. Didn't much matter.
Patrick spent a long career in agricultural journalism, as editor, media consultant, and as a voice for farmers. He was respected.
He also respected the role ag writers play. As a media consultant for numerous ag industry clients, he met and wrote about a lot of good farmers. And he shared some of those contacts with me. But he never expected me to write a product story based on his recommendation. He understood the boundaries and we didn't cross them.
One of our last interactions resulted in one of the best interviews I've done in a long time.
Over the last few years, when Patrick and I got together, conversation quickly turned to family. He always talked about his wife Deborah, daughter Jordan McLaughlin and son Brett. More recently, he talked about his grandchildren — Harper Grace and Hudson McLauglin and Ethan Shepard. I could hear the joy in his voice when he mentioned them. His family was his world.
Patrick was only 67, gone way too soon, leaving a void that cannot be filled and a family saddened beyond understanding by his passing.
They, and I, can take comfort in knowing that even though too short, Patrick's was a life well-lived. He leaves a legacy of integrity, friendship and a loving family.
The family has requested memorials be made in Patrick’s name "to St. Jude’s Children’s Research hospital or any hospital that treats cancer."