Patricia “Pat” McEwan, the daughter of Robert and Jeannette Brandberg McEwan, was born January 19, 1925, in Portland. Her roots in Oregon ran deep, especially within Benton County. Pat descended from Owen McEwan, a British soldier of the American Revolution whose grandson immigrated to Oregon, settling in Corvallis. Her great-great-grandfather, O.C. Motley, served as Benton County’s first sheriff. Her great-great-great-grandfather, John Robinson, led a wagon train to Oregon in 1846, acquiring land between Corvallis and Lewisburg. Pat had one brother, Robert. Pat was a bright student and went on from Franklin High School in 1942 to study business at Oregon State College. After a year, however, her financial situation forced her to withdraw from school and return to Portland, where she worked for the Sandberg Heating Company. In 1946, she came back to OSC, where she completed another two years of study.
One night when she was a student, she went to a “nickel hop,” a traditional weekend event on campus. There she met young Robert Wilson, a college freshman not long home from the war in Europe. They were married on July 12, 1947. As Bob described her, Pat was extremely intelligent, which brought a great deal of fun and interest into their relationship. “Everybody liked Pat,” said Bob.
Pat worked for the Oregon State Highway Commission to help put Bob through school, and through their combined efforts he earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1950 from OSC. They started a construction business together that year, forming a professional partnership that was to last for nearly forty years. Pat was very much involved in the business, from keeping the books to dealing with subcontractors and ordering materials. Every permanent record for the business before 1987 is in her handwriting.
Pat and Bob were a pair in everything they did, and that included the biggest, most rewarding part of their lives: their four daughters. Patty Jo was born in 1951, then came Nancy in 1953, Suzy in 1955, and Cindy in 1958. Pat kept working with the business during these extremely busy years, but they always had time to get involved with the girls and their lives. The girls were active in all sorts of clubs, such as Camp Fire Girls and 4-H projects. She was their friend as well as a very dedicated mother.
Over the last five years of Pat’s life, Bob hired more help in the office, which allowed Pat more time to pursue her own projects and involvement with organizations. Early on, she had been a member of the Junior Women’s Club, and in later years she was very much involved with the Assistance League of Corvallis. Pat held the office of Secretary for the Assistance League. The family was also involved in the First United Methodist Church.
Pat was initiated into Alpha Gamma Delta, an OSU sorority, in the early 1960s. She was very active as an alumna, taking on positions as advisor for undergraduates, financial advisor, house advisor, and corporation board president. Pat always contributed her time on the upkeep and maintenance of the house, and she often involved her family. She opened her own home to dessert parties for the new pledges (twenty five to thirty girls). There was no end to the amount of work she put into helping the undergraduates. She never hesitated in any kind of work she was asked to do, whether it was to scrub cobwebs out of the cloak room or apply a fresh coat of paint. The sorority honored Pat in 1987 by naming the Chapter Room in her memory.
“Pat was a very warm-hearted, sincere, private person whose concern for others was always foremost,” longtime friend Pat Eckhout said of Pat. “She cared about people, she worried about people. She would never get in arguments because she hated arguments. She wasn’t a fighter, but you did know that she had definite opinions. She could lead, but she just preferred to help someone else. If you ever asked her to do anything, you knew you were going to get a yes because she was very loyal, very dependable. She really was one who preferred to stay in the background, but when she had to take charge, she could do it.”
At home, Pat especially enjoyed sewing and tailoring, a skill she established first out of necessity, making dresses for four young girls. Later she sewed for pleasure, taking great care, as with all that she did. Everything she took on, she did very well—a trait that Bob discovered and admired early in their relationship.
When grandchildren came along, Pat assumed the role of grandmother with gusto. The Wilsons and their children and grandchildren enjoyed many visits to the beach home they purchased in 1977. In 1980, they decided to remodel the house, a project which Pat guided in her quiet, unassuming ways. Soon she had all the designers and workers wanting to do whatever they could to please her. That was part of her gift with people. Pat died December 19, 1987, after an extended illness. Her loss to family and friends was immeasurable. Someone once described love as a combination of shared memories and dreams for the future. Bob and Pat found in each other a partner with whom to share those dreams, building many precious memories along the way. In Pat’s memory, Bob and daughters Patty, Nancy, Susan, and Cindy established the Patricia McEwan Wilson Memorial Fund with BCF to benefit full-time student members of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority at Oregon State University.