Her sister, Grace Dashiell, and her brother and sister-in-law, Lee and Maria McKeirnan were with her at her passing.
Pat was from the generation that we fondly refer to as the “Greatest Generation.”
She certainly did her share to help her generation earn that moniker.
Pat was among the pioneers of women in education in the Northwest, becoming the first woman principal of a high school in Spokane when she took the helm at John Rogers in 1978.
Pat was hard to miss, even to her very last days, with her tall stature and her signature white hair that she earned at a very young age.
Her achievements and honors in Washington education were numerous, but her most satisfying moments came when she was so often recognized with fond remembrance by former students, teachers and administrators who she helped guide to success in life.
Pat was born to Thomas Lester and Isabel Graham McKeirnan on November 5, 1923 in the rural town of Pomeroy, Washington, surrounded by recently harvested wheat fields.
She was the oldest of nine siblings.
Coming of age in a large Catholic family on a farm in the Great Depression formed a tough and compassionate young lady with an independent spirit whose mission in life would be to serve others.
While still in her teens, Pat moved to Spokane, Washington to live with her grandmother and attend the all-girls Marycliff High School.
One of Pat’s teachers at Marycliff was Emily Ehlinger, a woman who would become one of Pat’s lifelong friends and companions.
While at Marycliff, Pat discerned a vocation for the religious life.
Upon graduation in 1941, Pat joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at their convent in LaCrosse, Wisconsin on the grounds of Viterbo College.
Pat became known for the next 19 years as Sister Mary Lucian.
Sister Mary Lucian taught and served in administrative roles at Catholic schools in the Midwest and continued her education at Viterbo College in the 1940s and 1950s, perfecting her professional skills, helping children and ultimately earning her Bachelor of Arts degree.
She also took graduate courses at the University of Notre Dame, earning official designation for her reputation as a Fighting Irishwoman.
In 1960, Pat made the very difficult decision to leave her order and continue her vocation independently.
Once again Pat McKeirnan, she returned to the family farm in Pomeroy to reconnect with her family before beginning graduate studies at the University of Washington and Gonzaga University, where she ultimately earned her Master Degree in Education in 1966.
In 1978, she was honored by Gonzaga with an Alumni Merit award for a personal life and public achievements worthy of recognition.
Pat was a teacher and counselor at Coeur d’Alene Junior High School and a counselor at North Central High School in Spokane until 1969 when she came to Rogers High School as a Dean and counselor.
She was appointed Assistant Principal in 1974 and was elevated to Principal in 1978.
In connection with being recognized as the first woman principal in Spokane, Pat offered the following pragmatic and revealing observations in a newspaper article: “Look at the potential we’ve lost through the years by not using capable women.
If medicine had recruited more women, we might have a cure for breast cancer and a lower infant mortality rate.
In government, there might be more interest in the needs of the poor and the family if women had been encouraged to pursue a career in public service.
In education, more women in policy-making positions might have changed the education of women.
In the past, girls were led to believe they didn’t need to prepare for a career other than homemaking.”
In 1983, Pat was honored as a Spokane Woman of Distinction by Women in Communications, Inc. She was cited for creating an improved learning climate for Rogers students through various initiatives and trying to help students develop an awareness that their attitudes and reactions are important in creating the kind of school they attend.
In regard to Rogers High School’s increased focus on sports and extra-curricular activities during Pat’s tenure at the school, she commented in a Spokane Chronicle article that “Competition is good for us.
A high school education isn’t complete without it.”
Pat finished her career as the principal of Spokane’s alternative high schools, competing daily with various negative outside influences to help at-risk students earn their diplomas.
Before and after her retirement, Pat enjoyed traveling the world with her dear friends, Catherine Rochlitzer and Emily Ehlenger.
Whether touring the grand cities of Europe or fishing in Alaska, Pat’s desire for adventure was always evident.
Catherine and Emmy became full-fledged members of the McKeirnan family, regularly attending family birthday parties, holiday events and participating with Pat in the lives of her siblings, nephews and nieces.
Pat is remembered by her family for her constant supportive presence in their lives, for her strength of character, for her amazing leadership and for her devotion to her Catholic faith.
She loved her nieces and nephews and spoiled them with outings, gifts (particularly books) and treats, even until the last days of her life.
She always enjoyed hearing or telling a good joke or a funny story.
She stole the show at her brother Lee’s 80th birthday party, informing everyone present that when her mother was in labor with Lee, she nearly dropped him in the flooded creek next to the farm house while crossing it on horseback on the way to delivering him in town.
She was honored late in life to be asked to serve as Godmother to her great-nephew Duncan Cooper.
When she protested that she was too old for such an important job, she was informed that even a few years would be worth it.
Pat fulfilled her role for 11 years, and Duncan learned as many did before him that any time you could spend in Pat’s good graces was time very well spent.
Pat was preceded in death by her father, Lester, her mother, Isabel, her brothers, Bob and Mike, her brothers-in-law, Don Sticklin and Kelly Dashiell, her sisters-in-law, Marian McKeirnan and Shirley McKeirnan, her nephew, Bart McKeirnan, and her friends, Catherine Rochlitzer and Emily Ehlinger.
Pat is survived by her siblings, Grace Dashiell, Lois Sticklin, Jean Whiteis and her husband Frank, Lee McKeirnan and his wife Maria, sister-in-law Allison McKeirnan, Marian Honsinger and her husband Dick, and Jim McKeirnan and his wife Linda.
Pat is also survived by dozens of nieces and nephews and their spouses, children and grandchildren, all of whom will forever lovingly remember her as “Aunt Pat.”
A Funeral Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 219 East Rockwood Boulevard, Spokane, WA, on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 11 a.m. A reception will follow immediately at the adjacent parish hall.
Pat will be laid to rest next to her parents in Holy Rosary Cemetery in Pomeroy, Washington at Noon on Saturday, March 8.
In lieu of flowers, we would ask you to send memorial donations for the benefit of students at John Rogers High School.
Please visit Pat’s online memorial to leave a message at www.hennesseyfuneralhomes.com.
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