Patty Thompson was everyone’s friend. In many instances, she was much more than that.
She was a mother to those she raised, to those she helped raise, to those who came by to sample her chicken and good eats and just needed a comforting voice. She was a grandmotherly sort, kind, giving, nurturing.
And Ms. Patty, as she was best known throughout Del Paso Heights and at sporting events at Grant High School, could offer a stern warning of discipline by raising her voice or just her eyebrow.
Thompson raised four sons as a single mother, whom she called her “lifeblood,” and she died Oct. 14 after enjoying one of her favorite passions. Shortly after watching son Shaq Thompson play linebacker for the Carolina Panthers on TV from her Sacramento home, Ms. Patty died in her sleep.
She was 57. The cause of death is still unknown, but her loss resonated through the region like a thunderbolt.
“We still can’t believe it,” Shaq Thompson said Friday afternoon. “She had sent me some texts that I had not gotten back to, and then she’s gone. We’re honored to know that so many people loved her. We’re torn, losing her and hearing about how loved she is. She was so proud of all of us boys. We were her babies.”
Shaq was the baby of the brood. The older brothers Syd’Quan, Ricky and Le’Arthur were role models for young Shaq, examples of how to be good men. All of them gravitated toward sports, and two reached the NFL, including Syd’Quan briefly with the Denver Broncos before an Achilles injury derailed those hopes.
Ms. Patty made sure that her boys stuck around after Grant games to snap photos with young children, to speak to those who came to games to watch them compete.
“You give back because they look up to you, understand?’‘ I overheard Ms. Patty once as she ushered Shaq back to the field where a flood of youth awaited.
I got to know Ms. Patty over the years. We would talk in the parking lot at Grant, in the stands for a game in Elk Grove. She beamed in talking about her boys. She would put an arm around me and introduce me to family and friends, often saying, “Joe’s family! He’s white family, but he’s good family!”
Ms. Patty worked for years for the Franchise Tax Board, but she could have doubled as a comedian. When Syd’Quan was a star cornerback at Cal in the mid 2000s, she recalled a phone call.
“He tells me, ‘Mama, you’d better sit down for this — it’s important,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, Lord, what has he done?’” Ms. Patty recalled several years ago. “He said that he was in the library at Cal, that he’s in there every day, and I dropped the phone and thought, ‘Oh, there is a heaven!’”
Ms. Patty was also big on accountability and what she perceived as fairness. No grades, no ball was her simple mandate. She was deemed too important to disappoint.
Said Grant football coach Mike Alberghini, “It’s a tremendous loss for the family and the community. She gave us four amazing sons.”
Ms. Patty also wasn’t afraid to kick out a recruiter from her home if she sensed the college coach he was full of double talk.
“Don’t come in here and BS me, mister!” she told me a time or two.
“What a great woman,” said Carl Reed, the Grant athletic director and assistant football coach. “She was a mother to many, many, many boys and the grandmother to just as many kids involved in the school or community. She was the epitome of a team mom. She held coaches, players and everyone not taking care of business accountable.
“We all feel her loss. It’s something that ripples all the way through this area. She left her sons with the feeling that they’re going to be OK.”
She reminded her boys that everything would be OK when it didn’t seem like it was. Her sons did not have a father growing up, but they had each other. There were many a cold, dark night in their house in North Highlands, where chaos and violence lurked around the nearest corner. There were mornings without a cold shower because there was not always the luxury of electricity.
Buckets of hot water from a neighbor were often used to bathe in. And there were nights where a long extension cord stretching into the neighbor’s kitchen was used for lighting. Ms. Patty shared these stories with me, amid tears sometimes, and said she was touched by how her sons remained strong.
Her sons called her “my Queen.” They all sported dreadlocks because Mom had already made it fashionably cool.
“We’re the proud Dread Heads,” Ms. Patty once told me amid laughter.
Shaq bought his mother a new home with his NFL earnings, and he provided her with gifts that she often wanted to reject.
“Mom always thought of everyone else,” Shaq said. “She was the most amazing mom, so loving, caring, protective. We got our big hearts from her.”
Ms. Patty is survived by her four sons, six siblings and 13 grandchildren. There will be a celebration of “Momma Patty” as the flier reads on Monday starting at 11 a.m. at the Calvary Christian Center on 2667 Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento, with the burial and reception to follow.