Lee Rhyne Patterson died peacefully, surrounded by family, on December 24, 2021 at age 96. She was born on September 9, 1925 in Conover, NC to Orestes Pearl and Huldah Rockett Rhyne.
Lee grew up in Clemson, SC as the daughter of a college professor and a gifted homemaker. She came from a close family with two siblings, an older sister, Dot, and younger brother, Edwin. She loved school and sports (she played point guard on the basketball team as well as tennis) and made many lifelong friends in Clemson. Her family instilled in her curiosity, a sense of humor, love of tennis, and appreciation for home-cooked food with fresh ingredients.
Lee attended Lenior-Rhyne College and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Psychology in 1946. She played tennis on the varsity tennis team and was president of her sorority. Letters from her sister and best friend during this time indicate she enjoyed what college offered despite the hardships of World War II.
She married William R. Patterson, whom she had met at Lenoir-Rhyne, in 1947. Lee worked for the Political Science department at Duke University while “Pat” attended law school there. In 1950 they moved to Atlanta to begin Pat’s legal career. Lee quickly made friends at their apartment on Dan Lane, several of whom became life-long friends. Throughout her life she was very supportive to her friends and counted on as a good listener.
Lee had a zest for life. She always wanted to participate, be with people, and give new things a try. Her grandchildren love to tell the story about when, in her eighties, she learned to play the college game beer pong. She would land the ping pong balls in the cups from across the table and became the star of the videos the grandkids took that night. In her nineties, she gamely tried and became a fan of sushi.
Lee was a gracious hostess and frequently hosted law firm parties, dinner parties for friends, and family dinners too numerous to count. She loved her home and had a great sense of design and an aptitude for flower arranging. She was also a painter and several of her paintings added beauty to her home and those of her children and grandchildren. A niece described her as “ the epitome of a gracious Southern lady, and that means that her grace lived deep within her. She didn’t have to put it on for special occasions.” She and her two siblings made a point of bringing their families together every year and thus created a close bond among extended family members.
Lee grew up playing tennis with her sister. They wouldn’t come in until it was too dark to see the ball. She played on teams and in leagues during high school, college, and for many decades in Atlanta. Some of her closest friends were her tennis buddies. In her sixties, she took up golf and enjoyed that into her eighties. She even won a fur coat for a hole-in-one at a club tournament!
Lee and Pat were world travelers. They traveled often for professional meetings and, after the children were launched, more broadly. They went to China in the late 70’s when it was first opening to Americans and especially loved time in England and Europe where they purchased beautiful furnishings and art for their home. Her last trip abroad was with her sister, Dot, to Paris when they were well into their eighties.
Lee also participated in the community. She and Pat were involved in the early days of Trinity Presbyterian Church and she was a member for 64 years. She and her friend Mary Rogers Thomas delivered meals for Meals on Wheels for close to a decade. She also volunteered with Egleston Children’s Hospital, the Atlanta Symphony and the High Museum of Art. She was excited to see the arts thrive as Atlanta grew. An avid reader, Lee was a longtime book club member.
Lee will be deeply missed and long celebrated by her immediate and extended family. She was an attentive and supportive mother and a very loving grandmother. Her hugs, encouragement and eager clapping will long be remembered. She is preceded in death by her parents OP and Huldah Rhyne, her husband of almost 60 years, Pat, her sister, Dot, and brother, Edwin. She is survived by her children, daughter Martie Patterson and son, Robert Patterson and wife Susan Patterson of Atlanta, GA; and daughter Libby Gulley and husband Dub Gulley of Durham, NC; grandchildren Rhyne and Pierce Gulleya nd Elizabeth and Rivers Patterson. Also missing Lee but celebrating her life are the dearly loved families of her sister, the Blyths of Chapel Hill, NC and Austin, Texas and the Bixiones of Jacksonville, NC; and of her brother, the Rhynes of Williamsburg , VA and the Coates of Arlington, VA.
Her family wishes to extend deep gratitude to her caregivers over her last year of life, especially Cindy Brown, Monique Jean-Baptise, Melinda Payne and Toyin Abanikannda.
A Memorial Service will be held on Monday February 7, at 11 AM at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3003 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30327.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in her memory to Meals on Wheels, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Foundation, or Trinity Presbyterian Church Atlanta, GA.