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‘She’s become a rock star’: La Jollan Violet Patton turns 106 with music and high morale

Violet Patton is surprised by a mariachi player at her 106th birthday party Aug. 30.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla Centenarians:

La Jolla artist, educator and philanthropist Violet Patton celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 30 among friends and caretakers.

The party featured food and entertainment, including a surprise visit from a mariachi band, recognizing Patton’s love for travel to Mexico.

Patton, born Aug. 30, 1916, in Williamsburg, Ohio, followed the path of her parents, educators David and Gladys, according to Ohio University, her alma mater.

Patton earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education in Ohio and New York, respectively, and worked as a teacher. She also illustrated textbooks and developed training programs for teachers at various universities.

Patton said she loves the arts component of education the most.

Over the past several decades, Patton — a successful investor — has made large gifts to educational institutions, including to Ohio University for an arts education center and its education college, which is now named after her parents.

In 2020, the national nonprofit Council for Advancement and Support of Education awarded Patton the James L. Fisher Award, which “celebrates individuals, organizations, foundations, corporations or publications for their extraordinary impact on education nationally or globally, beyond service to a single institution or state,” according to the CASE website.

She also earned two honorary doctorates in education from Ohio University, the second at age 93.

Violet Patton is pictured receiving her second honorary doctorate degree in education from Ohio University when she was 93.
(Courtesy of Violet Patton)

Patton never married nor had children, as “being a professor of education was a big thing,” said Billie Hakes, her La Jolla neighbor of 55 years.

Patton moved to La Jolla in 1963 with her parents upon their retirement to a house on Mount Soledad, where she still lives.
Her father died in the 1960s; her mother in the 1980s.

Patton has remained as independent as possible, Hakes said, and hasn’t needed a wheelchair or caretakers until recently.

Patton is known for climbing on the roof or scrambling under the house to perform repairs well into her 90s, Hakes said.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Patton asked.

When asked for the secret to reaching 106, she said, “I don’t know how it happened.” But she added that her birthday party has been her favorite memory so far.

Kathy Davidson, Patton’s attorney and friend since 2015, said Patton is “one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met.”

“She’s a special individual,” Davidson said. “She’s a lot of fun. So intelligent and witty. She’s someone for me to look up to.”

Hakes said Patton has become much more social in recent years, having previously kept to herself.

“She’s become a rock star,” Hakes said. “She used to be very modest.

“She’s really done a lot of wonderful things.”

Patton also is known to keep her Christmas tree up and decorated, with presents underneath, year-round “because she loves it,” Davidson said.

She also indulges her love of watching Lawrence Welk on video and dancing, if only with her feet now that she uses a wheelchair, Davidson added.

Violet Patton says she loves the arts component of education the most.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Caretaker Emelia Guanarrama said Patton’s “head is so clear; she knows what she wants and when she wants it and how she wants it.”

Patton said she was surprised to see her friends celebrate with her and that she loves seeing their success.

“They’re all doing very well,” she said.

La Jolla Centenarians is an occasional series in the La Jolla Light. If you know a La Jollan who is or is about to be at least 100 years old, email robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.