Popular optometrist "never met a stranger"

Dr. William George Van Patten was a man who never met a stranger, his daughter Katrina Van Patten-Copoulos said Tuesday.

"He was honest and fair, and he loved people," she said. "Someone told me he never met a stranger, and as a result he had a wonderful practice here in town. He loved what he did."

Van Patten, a popular Carson City optometrist, died Feb. 17 from complications of meningitis. He was 68 years old.

A resident of Carson City since 1959, Van Patten practiced optometry here until 1998. Van Patten-Copoulos said her father chose Carson City as a place to settle down while he was in optometry school.

"He subscribed to the Appeal when he was in Los Angeles attending optometry school, so he knew of the community before he moved here," she said. "He was impressed with Carson City and thought it would be a great place to practice and raise a family."

Friends described Van Patten as a man dedicated to his community and profession.

"Bill was really one of the best citizens Carson ever had," Carson City Recorder Alan Glover said. "He was always involved in what happened in the community, especially with education. He tried to do what was right for Carson.

"He was a super guy, one you could confide in who always gave really good advice. I've never know anyone who was as good a man as Bill Van Patten."

Friend Ted Stokes described Van Patten as "one of nature's noblemen."

"He was outstanding in his profession," Stokes said. "He was just one of these people who was always willing to help. He was just there when someone needed help, an encouraging word, help or whatever. I know we're all going to miss him very much."

A native of Rochester, N.Y., Van Patten was born to Earl Van Patten and Dorothy Jeffers on April 10, 1931. He attended college in Hattiesburg, Miss. at Mississippi Southern College before enlisting in the Air Force. He was based at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where he met his wife, Sharlene. They were married May 6, 1954. After leaving the military, he attended the University of Nevada, Reno and then the Los Angeles School of Optometry. He graduated in June 1959 and opened his practice in Carson City in August 1959.

An active member of the community, Van Patten held various offices as a member of the Carson City Rotary Club, served on the Carson City School Board from 1967 to 1978, was a member of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce and Western Nevada Community College Boards of Directors, as well as local, state and national optometry associations.

"Carson was a wonderful place, and he wanted to be part of it," Van Patten-Copoulos said.

In honor of his service in the Rotary Club, members Tuesday pledged $5,000 to establish a scholarship fund in his honor. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Carson City Rotary Foundation, P.O. Box 504, Carson City, Nev. 89702.

"People have been overwhelming in their sympathies," Van Patten-Copoulos said. "He was a very special man."

Both of his children are Carson City residents who followed their father into the medical profession. Van Patten-Copoulos followed in her father's footsteps as an optometrist, and William Van Patten Jr. is a local dentist.


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