by Monica Conrady
It was sad news indeed to hear of the passing of Patricia Lee early last month. Patricia was one of the founding members of BATW and was its first and longest-serving President.
It all began back in the 80’s, when a group of hopeful travel writers met once a month in each other’s homes. A few of us would bring a manuscript and we’d all critique it. The host of the day would provide coffee and cookies. Current members Carol Canter, Karen Misuraca, Lee Daley, myself and our dear Patricia were among those who opened their doors. Eventually the group grew much too large to meet in people’s homes so a search was made for a larger venue. The Hostel at Fort Mason became our home base for a time – a great location with stunning views of the Bay.
In the mid 90’s, a group of members took over a quarterly newsletter entitled “Romantic Traveling” from Elaine O’Gara, another long-time member who had moved to Texas. Patricia, Carolyn Koenig, myself, Sheila O’Connor, Marian Sanders and the late Diane Brady produced Romantic Traveling for around 15 years. Patricia’s great stories documented her many travels.
If asked her favorite destination she would always say London. She and her husband Chuck (also deceased) traveled there many times. They went in style, staying at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, a very classy establishment. Patricia liked to do things in style!
One of my fondest personal memories is of going with her to the Irish Cultural Center, just a couple of blocks from her house. Once a month they would have a ‘Mass, lunch and a speaker’. The Mass with Fr. Brendan would be held at the Center, not in a church. The lunch would be catered and the speaker was always someone interesting. This all came to a halt with Covid-19, of course.
Patricia was born in San Francisco and lived here her entire life. She and Chuck, a firefighter, were married 69 years and were blessed with two children, Bethanne and Stephen.
Patricia had a sweet tooth and was known for checking the dessert menu before the main course. She loved hot fudge sundaes. She also loved sipping a glass of champagne, her favorite being Gloria Ferrer pink champagne.
Patricia would have been 97 on April 12th. A lovely lady who will be sorely missed by all who knew her.
And this is an article Suzie Rodriguez published in 2013:
Travel Q&A with Patricia Lee
Patricia Lee—a founding member of BATW and the organization’s first and longest-serving President (1984-2000)—has lived in San Francisco all her life. She was born at St. Mary’s Hospital and attended local schools; after graduataing from high school at the age of 16, she started college at San Francisco State.
Right around that time Pearl Harbor was attacked, and life changed completely—especially for young and single gals. With San Francisco as a major military transit point, young servicemen on their way to the Pacific were everywhere. Patricia, like many of her friends, volunteered as a hostess at a USO-type center, where soldiers and sailors came to dance and talk with girls, enjoy free food, and relax.
In 1942 she met a handsome Navy tail gunner from Vermont named Chuck. They liked each other, but soon he headed off to war. “That was okay with me,” Patricia said. “I was too young to get serious.”
They kept in touch, though, and when Chuck returned a year or so later it didn’t take them long to elope. “We had known each other only two weeks over a two-year period,” Patricia said. “But it worked.”
Their wartime romance was later written about by TV personality Larry King in a book entitled “Love Stories of World War II.”
After the war the young couple settled down in San Francisco and had two children, a boy and a girl. Chuck joined the San Francisco Fire Department, eventually becoming a Battalion Chief; he also taught Fire Science at City College.
When both children were in school, Patricia—who had dropped out of college—decided it was time to earn her degree so she could fulfill a dream she had of teaching. Money was tight, so she did everything she could to graduate quickly. “I took 3.5 years of classes in 2.5 years,” she said. “I grabbed every class I could.”
She began teaching “sometime in the 1950s. I taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades throughout my 25 years—4th grade was my favorite. Most of my career was at Sherman School over at Franklin and Union.”
Today both Chuck and Patricia are retired, and their travels have slowed down. But the love they both feel for the world around them has only increased over the years.
“Travel is a wonderful teacher,” said Patricia. “We did it all the time, and my advice to younger people is to do it while you can.”
Travel Q&A with Patricia Lee
What is your favorite destination?
Where have you traveled the most?
What was the first place you remember traveling to in your life?
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in travel since you took your first trip?
A personal one, in that these days going to Danville and staying overnight seems like a trip to Europe.
What book about travel had the greatest influence on you?
The poems of Robert Louis Stevenson when I was a kid.
Have you ever been in a dangerous or troubling situation while traveling? If so, what happened?
Not dangerous. But stressful situations such as cancelled flights. I still remember one horrendous time spent at an airport in Germany.
What’s been your favorite style of travel (i.e., nature treks, luxury, cruises, etc.)?
Luxury. And I like historic places, also.
What do you consider the most romantic destination in your travels?
Venice, Italy, with my husband. Riding in a gondola with the gondolier singing a beautiful Italian song, a dark and starry night. We’ve traveled together almost all the time. There was only one or two trips when we haven’t been together. Venice was definitely the most romantic.
What place would you never return to?
That’s difficult. There’s hardly any place I’d never return to. But I’d say the most disappointed I’ve been was when we traveled to a little town in northern Italy, Bellagio. We’d been in Las Vegas at the Hotel Bellagio and loved it—it was so elegant and all that. So eventually we traveled to Italy and saw that a town called Bellagio was on—I think it was on Lake Garda. It was nothing like what we expected. Chuck said he’d never go again.
If you could go anywhere in the world for one day, right now, where would it be? Why? What would you do there?
Istanbul. When I was there I was sick, so I really didn’t have a chance to experience what it offers.
If you needed to hole up in a hotel room anywhere in the world to finish your next book on time, where would you go? And what hotel would it be?
Well, naturally I’d go to London. And I’d stay at 47 Park Street. It’s the most elegant, fascinating place—a former residence turned into cozy, wonderful apartments. There’s a famous restaurant right there, Le Gavroche (two Michelin stars). If you’re writing a book you can hole up at 47 Park Street, just go downstairs to the beautiful restaurant when you’re hungry. No matter what you need, the hotel will take care of it. And if you need action, there’s so much going on in the surrounding streets.
If you could do so, what would you change about the world of travel?
Everything you must go through now because of terrorism.
What advice do you have for people just beginning to travel?
Go with your passion. Just go! Don’t put if off.
What years were you president of BATW?
From 1984 to 2000. I’m still not sure if I was president or chairperson, so I’ve merged them.
What are you proudest of during your tenure as BATW President?
All of the members and people we met, the wonderful times we had. Talking about travel, writing stories. It was all very vital, it was fantastic!