SJSU in the News: July 19 Celebration of Life Planned for Alumnus, “Tireless Advocate for Individuals With Disabilities”

Richard W. Patterson, Resident of San Jose

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News July 3, 2011

Richard died unexpectedly from a stroke on June 22, 2011 at Valley Medical Center, surrounded by family and friends and colleagues. He was 48 years old. Richard was employed by the Rehabilitation Research Center at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose. He was the Clinical Support Coordinator for Persons with Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries since 1995 and led the peer-support counseling program there for the past 15 years. He was a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities, committee member for the Public Authority for In-Home-Supportive-Services, a co-chair of the Disability Advisory Commission for the City of San Jose, and instrumental in the start-up and success of Accessible Adventures for People with Disabilities. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Adapted Physical Education in 1996, and his Master’s Degree in Counseling Education with an emphasis in Traumatic Injury and Lifestyle Counseling in 1998, both from San Jose State University.

At the age of 19, Richard himself suffered an accident which left him a quadriplegic. He spent a year in the very hospital where he would later come to be a very valued employee. At the time of his accident, Richard’s goals were unclear but he loved life in the fast lane and especially race car driving.

Richard’s life turned out very different than anyone could have imagined. Once he decided, not to accept his fate, but instead to make the most of the life, he did just that. He became an inspiration for thousands, and his legacy will continue to inspire thousands more.

Richard never let his disability keep him from doing what he wanted to do. He loved skydiving and eventually set the world record for the highest tandem parachute jump by a disabled person. He took scuba diving lessons, drove a race car, piloted an airplane and competed in the Special Olympics in swimming. He was a spokesperson for Canine Companions of Santa Rosa and received three assistance dogs. He loved his dogs! He was also on the board of the Tapestry in Arts event in San Jose.

Richard was preceded in death by his mother, Edna Daigh, less than a year ago. He is survived by his father, Robert Patterson of Las Vegas, NV, his step-father Lawrence Daigh of Groveland, CA, his sisters, Susan Hellsten of Sunsites, AZ, Robin Patterson of Groveland, CA, and Sally Patterson of San Jose, CA, his step-sister, Kirsten Lennen of Groveland, CA, and step-brothers, Steve, Eric and Kurt Daigh of Idaho. He is also survived by the love of his life, his fiance, Ligia Andrade of San Jose, CA.

A Memorial and Celebration of Richard’s life will be held on July 19th at The Pointe, 3695 Rose Terrasse Circle, San Jose, CA from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., refreshments to follow. A foundation has been set up in Richard’s name to continue the work that was so important to him. Please visit if you wish to donate or if you just want to browse the website.