The passing of our dear friend and leading plumbing and heating industry personality, Catherine Patterson, has prompted a huge response from those who knew and worked with her over the years. In all honesty, we struggled with how best to remember her within these pages; so here are some words from her close friends and colleagues.
Thanks everyone for sharing your heartfelt words and memories of this larger than life lady.
Jacqui Fairley, Publication Manager, Plumbing & Heating Magazine
“When I started working on Plumbing & Heating Magazine, 19 years ago, Catherine was one of the first people I met from the industry. I didn’t know the first thing about plumbing and heating, but she took me under her wing and introduced me to so many other people in the sector. This really helped me to build the magazine.
Catherine had the personal touch and a real passion for her work. She would always go the extra mile to help her installers and earned their respect and friendship. Her incredible drive helped her grow Vaillant from nothing into a major boiler brand in Ireland.
On a personal level, Catherine became one of my closest friends. She talked me into taking part in the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ charity event – which I wasn’t going to do. I’m so glad she did; it meant that I got to spend the best four months with her.
Her seafood chowder was legendary as was her appreciation for gin and enjoying time with her friends and her loved ones.
I’m delighted she met Davy; they were soul mates while Callum was the apple of her eye. She was so proud of him when he joined the gas industry.
Catherine was loved by so many and I will miss her, terribly. I thought the world of her.”
Eunice McClune, Newbuild Sales Manager, Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd
“The first day I met Catherine was back in the late 80’s in Calor Gas when this vision of loveliness entered the Customer Services office with huge red hair (just like Crystal Tipps & Alistair from the TV programme in the 70’s) wearing a red fitted jacket and red lipstick – need I say more. Not only was Catherine strikingly gorgeous, she had the personality to match.
Roll on to the late 90’s and Catherine joined the Phoenix Domestic Sales Team where she was a vital member of the team for a couple of years.
Catherine was always destined for greater things and in June 2000, she left Phoenix and had jobs both in selling kitchens and Beaumatic appliances. A few years later Ferolli came knocking. Catherine stayed with Ferroli under the watchful eye of Gerry Lanagan for a number of years, and he soon saw what a formidable woman she was and they became great colleagues and firm friends.
In 2007, Catherine was then offered the role of Sales Manager NI for Vaillant and in later years went on to become Regional Director of Sales Ireland. Catherine put her full heart and soul into her work. Her colleagues and the wider industry became her friends as she had that wonderful ability to take an interest in people, instantly build a rapport with them and make them feel special.
Catherine was one of the few people in life that had found their equilibrium. She managed to balance a hugely demanding job while being a wonderful mum to Callum (the apple of her eye), and of course the one and only Frank; a fabulous wife to Davy; a loving daughter to Mary; a big sister to ‘our Sharn’ and Dee and a cherished friend to many.
In equal measures she made time for everyone. She was selfless and loved nothing more than having her family and friends together. Her kitchen was her domain. It was where she worked, chatted, solved Third World problems, gave sage advice, entertained and cooked the most amazing food. She was not only multi-talented but multi-skilled. Her love for live music, Journey and Foreigner, took her on many an adventure. She loved The Empire, playing air guitar (she could really play that guitar), singing (even though she couldn’t) and dancing – she would be the first onto the dance floor to get the party started at the Gala Ball. She was the ultimate rock chick.
Her zest for life was second to none and she found beauty in nature, out walking with Frank and tending her garden – so much that Davy and she were in competition taking separate sides of the garden to grow their plants. She loved sunflowers and they took pride of place in her wedding bouquet and as a lovely gesture she gave her friends a packet of sunflower seeds so that we could all grow them in time for her first wedding anniversary – I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t blessed with green fingers.
Catherine was, and always will be, one of the Gas Girls. Every year we would get together in the early months to celebrate our birthdays and in December we would start our festive celebrations off with Christmas lunch at Muriel’s, a wee glass of Prosecco or two and spend the afternoon tasting and rating a selection of the finest gins. She was quite the connoisseur, thank goodness we got her off the red wine! As her illness progressed we couldn’t get to our days out. She said she was going to have a wee gin one Saturday night so all the Gas Girls poured themselves a wee gin at 9pm and raised our glasses to her and sent her the pictures.
In the words of Journey – ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ – Catherine never did. Her attitude throughout her illness was one of positivity and sheer determination it was only when she got to ring her remission bell following her first cancer treatment did it finally hit her what she had actually come through.
So devastatingly sad for it to come back and rob her of the wonderful life she, Davy and Callum had ahead of them.
Abraham Lincoln said, “It is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years”. This has never been truer for Catherine as she led a life filled with adventure, wonder, music, laughter, optimism, love, fun and brought so many people together in her own inimitable way. She is and will be missed every day.”
Dougie Burrows, Director of T McCleave Plumbing & Heating
“The first time I met Catherine was when she called with me as a rep for Ferroli boilers. As we were chatting my phone rang (ringtone AC/DC) which started a conversation on music. It turned out we had been to many of the same gigs and our paths had crossed many times without us knowing.
Shortly after this Catherine invited my wife Linda and myself on a trip to Italy for a factory visit. From that point on we became great friends and attended many events, concerts and social evenings together. We have some fantastic memories of Catherine, always smiling, always happy.
I remember when she started with Vaillant, she asked me to help with a video for her Phoenix NINGA night. She came out to the job I was working on and did a question and answer video with me. Before we started filming she produced a pair of clear plastic high heel shoes and told me to roll my trousers up and put them on. At the end of this serious interview the cameraman panned down to my feet. You can imagine the state of me – but anything for a laugh! That was Catherine, always looking to lighten the mood.
In the last five years she was blessed with having Davy in her life. A match made in heaven, they crammed a lifetime into those five years and I am so glad they did.
When Linda and I visited Catherine in her last weeks she told us to remember the good times. That’s what I intend to do. I will miss her and her happy smiling face but will always have the greatest memories of Catherine Patterson.”
Spencer Clark, Commercial Director, Vaillant Group
“There are many ways I can describe Catherine, amazing, professional, funny, strong, classy, clever, determined, happy and the list goes on and on.
Professionally, I have seen her grow in past years into a trusted and dependable Regional Director. Personally, I know she has so many friends in Vaillant and the wider industry, especially in Northern Ireland where she had been the face of Vaillant for over a decade.
Catherine was a real character. We were lucky to have in our lives and she will be missed by so many.”
Ray Keen, National Sales Manager (Ireland), Glow-worm Vaillant
“I have known Catherine for almost 20 years, with the last 14 years or so as a friend and colleague at Vaillant Group. Catherine was the ultimate professional when it came to work, caring and considerate in everything she did, which is why she attracted so many customers to Vaillant, and why so many of them became friends.
Catherine was nearly always bright and cheerful and had a positive influence on all that she met. She always had words of support and encouragement, normally in my case it was “catch yourself on”, and was always there to lift you if needed. She will be sorely missed by all that knew her, as we have lost a real character from our industry; and I have lost a true friend.”
Jonathan Martindale, Director of Business Development, Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd
“Catherine came with a formidable reputation as a winner, someone who delivered, someone that you would want on your team. While I was aware of the high regard in which Catherine was held I don’t think we had met prior to us both taking up new roles within the gas industry in 2007. Catherine had just left Ferroli and taken on a similar post with Vaillant where she would go on to enjoy great success.
In many ways this move back in 2007, that saw Catherine move from a boiler brand that she had worked very hard to establish to one that was largely starting from scratch in an already fairly established marketplace, demonstrated the ambition and self-belief that she possessed.
These traits will come as no surprise to those that knew and worked with Catherine, and in some regards are not unique skills to those in the plumbing and heating industry. What made Catherine unique however was her ability to operate with drive, determination and a desire to be the best while still maintaining her humility, her ability to see the fun in life and the warm, genuine engagement she provided.
One of Catherine’s last duties for Ferroli was to present an award at the 2007 Gas Industry Conference. On the same night, one of my first jobs as a young Trade Development Manager for Phoenix, was to round up all the award sponsors backstage 10 minutes before they were due on stage to present their respective awards. Fairly straightforward you would think, and it proved to be for all awards sponsors, except for Catherine.
To this day I still think she was giving the new kid in the industry a test. One minute before Catherine was due up on stage she was within arm’s length of me, however, as the compere called out, “Ladies and gentlemen here to present our next award…” I looked around and Catherine was gone. I darted out to the main foyer area and spotted Catherine at the end of the hall chatting away to an industry colleague. As I guldered down the foyer to Catherine that she was being called to stage she glanced at me as if to say, “What are you getting all worked up about,” and in her own time made her way to the stage. As I sweated on what my old boss, Jim Tait, was going to say about me failing the one job I had to get right on the night – Catherine gracefully entered the stage, not a care in the world and lit up the room like she often did.
At many events across the last 20 years, we have reflected on the ability of our industry to deliver high levels of success while building and maintaining lifelong friendships. For me, Catherine epitomised these values and in doing so will leaving a legacy that will ripple across our industry for many, many years to come.
When it comes to our working lives, while we all strive for success and to better ourselves in various ways, we ultimately want to have shared this working journey with likeminded people that made the tougher time that little bit easier. Catherine for me, and many others, was a jewel in the crown in this regard.”
Barry Lowe, Regional Sales Manager, PTS Ireland & MD Ireland
“I had the pleasure of knowing Catherine for 20 years and had many business dealings with her. She was always available, always helpful, always upbeat and really good at her job.
We became very good friends. She was a fantastic listener and we had some brilliant conversations over the years during which she always gave me great advice.
But it’s outside of work that I will sorely miss her the most. She was always up for a laugh and had a gin selection second to none. She always wanted to help others. One time we arranged a skydive together with other friends for Autism NI, which was a brilliant experience, but it was during the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ industry event for ‘Energy For Children’, that we really became closer. All the dancers became great friends and created a bond that will always be there.
I was very fortunate to spend time with her in her home in the last few weeks. I think about her daily and can’t believe she is gone. I often go to call her and realise that she is no longer there and that is when it hits home that a friend is gone forever.
I miss my friend Catherine and know that a lot of people do too. A big loss to the plumbing and heating industry and a big loss to me personally.”
Tiny Weatherill, Manager, Plumb Master
“I have known Catherine as far back as her Ferroli days and formed a great friendship with her. We got really close when we were paired to dance together for the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ charity event in April 2018; she put a lot of trust in me with some of the moves we had to perform.
Those were the happiest five to six months I have spent in this trade. Catherine always knew how to make your day better. We had many great laughs and stories after each session of rehearsal and we got to know each other on a more personal level. I think of her daily and hardly a working day goes by that a customer mentions her. She made me a better person and for that I will be eternally grateful, I miss you Catherine, until we meet again.”
“What made Catherine unique was her ability to operate with drive, determination and a desire to be the best while still maintaining her humility, her ability to see the fun in life and the warm, genuine engagement she provided.”
Honouring her wishes
Catherine was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2019, and after a successful course of treatment she went into remission, ringing the bell in December 2019.
Sadly, in March 2020, she was diagnosed with secondary cancer in the brain, but this time the treatment wasn’t successful. She returned home from hospital in May before spending her final few weeks in NI Hospice, passing away in October 2020.
In her last few days, Catherine asked Davy to set up a fundraiser for the NI Hospice Charity.
Davy says, “I wasn’t completely aware of what a hospice did before Catherine went in there, but I quickly had my eyes opened. The NI Hospice is a fantastic facility with the most caring, professional staff. They showed Catherine the utmost respect and dignity every minute of every day.”
Respecting her wishes, Davy has been fundraising and at the time of going to press, has raised over £5,300 for the NI Hospice charity. Hearing about Catherine’s wishes, Jonathan Martindale of Phoenix Gas said he would like to organise a gas industry event in support of the NI Hospice charity in 2021 – Covid-19 restrictions permitting.