Saying goodbye to an old friend

By Ernie Brown

Less than two years ago, I dedicated a column to Patricia Ann Hawkins Anderson, who was celebrating her 10th year of staying away from crack cocaine.

In the column, she discussed her trip down a road of darkness, depression and dependency all due to her drug addiction.

She also, however, told of how she was able — with God’s help and support from her family — to get off that road that was leading to destruction and head in a new direction.

She sought out treatment centers, particularly the Donofrio Women’s Shelter. She leaned on her drug-treatment sponsors and support-group members to keep her from returning to drug dependency.

A 1972 graduate of Youngstown East High School, she enrolled at Youngstown State University and was majoring in social work. She was secretary of Wednesday Noon 12 Steps recovery group and also was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

She sponsored many women in drug and alcohol recovery and was involved in the alcohol and drug recovery ministry at Rising Star Baptist Church, where she was a member.

Sadly, Pat died Feb. 2, and her funeral was Feb. 13.

I saw Pat at church just a week before she died. She let me know her sister, Robinette Cousart, had returned to the hospital for treatment, and I told her I would make sure I would make a visit.

That would end up being our last conversation.

Pat was 55.

At her funeral, several people took time to speak about Pat in remarks preceding the eulogy.

One woman came forward to speak about how Pat had helped her in recovery. She described her as a good friend, almost like a sister. She said Pat was an inspiration, and she would miss her.

Others talked about Pat’s sense of humor and her ability to be the “mother hen” of her siblings.

Perhaps the most poignant tribute was given by Pat’s 8-year-old granddaughter. She said she was going to miss her grandma, but she knew that one day she would see her again in heaven. She ended her tribute by simply saying, “Goodbye.”

I think Pat’s life and her legacy speaks to us all.

Yes, she made some bad life choices. She told me, “Ernie, if there is one message I would have for anyone is don’t start using drugs.”

She also had to overcome some other hurdles: two failed marriages; a niece killed by a drunken driver; the death of her father; and the death of her son, Erik Anderson Sr., in a vehicular accident late last year.

But Pat was a woman of faith and tenacity. She believed that a relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ was the only way for anyone to overcome any obstacle.

She shared that faith with the women she mentored in recovery. She urged them to get help in treatment centers. She reminded them that they had to take responsibility for their recovery.

Pat was determined not to let her life spin totally out of control, and she did something about it.

That is what I will most remember about her.

Goodbye, Pat. I’ll talk to you again in heaven.

Ernie Brown Jr., a Regional Editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. Contact him at

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