Former Indiana First Lady Patricia “Pat” Whitcomb died Sunday in Seymour at the age of 91.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Nelson Frank and Alice Pfeffer Dolfuss, Pat loved her adopted home state of Indiana.
A graduate of Greenfield High School and Ward Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, Pat joined the Fashion Board at L.S. Ayres upon graduation. Modeling in the Tea Room, she caught the eye of young state Sen. Ed Whitcomb. After a three-month courtship, they married.
That began a journey that would take them to all 92 counties in Indiana several times and to all corners of the world.
Eager to engage with people everywhere she went, Pat learned courtesy phrases in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Tagalog and German. From their home in Seymour, Pat made everything she touched beautiful and meaningful.
Pat was active in her community. She regularly volunteered at the Thrift Shop, operated by her sorority, Psi Iota Xi. The same horticultural skills that she used to landscape the grounds of their home earned her the presidency of the All Thumbs Garden Club. A leader of her daughters’ Brownie troop and as a Sunday school teacher, Pat was a role model of grace and intelligence.
The consummate partner, Pat helped Ed build his law career and his political base and was responsible for getting his first book published.
All the while, she managed the household of five children and their numerous pets with the help of her mother-in-law, Louise; Anna Habenicht, their live-in housekeeper; and Nancy Endicott Parker, a college student who supervised the children when Pat and Ed were on the campaign trail and serving the state as governor and first lady from 1969 to 1973.
Life after politics took Pat into the business world with her mother and brother. They operated a successful Honey Baked Hams franchise in Toluca Lake, California. During that time, she and Ed divorced, and Pat lived in Toluca Lake until the late 1980s. She then moved back to Indiana, where she continued her passion for the arts, gardening and being with her children and grandchildren.
Pat is survived by her children, Trish Whitcomb (Russ Sipes), Ann (John) Guggenheim, Shelley Whitcomb, Alice Carfagno and John (Terri) Whitcomb. Grandchildren include Patty Guggenheim, Michael Guggenheim, Amber (Ryan) Burton, Zach (Georgia) Branham, Tabitha Whitcomb, Russell (Donna) Sipes and Bonnie (Chris) Hovey; and great-grandchildren Arabelle, Lincoln, Charlotte and Lola Burton, Sebastian Branham and Emma James Cowden.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother, Nelson Frank Dolfuss Jr., and her grandson, John Allen Whitcomb.
The family is grateful for the care Shelley Whitcomb gave their mother and the support of home health care workers and hospice nurses.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Winklepeck and Brock Funeral Home in Brownstown. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Community Diner of Seymour at First United Methodist Church in Seymour.