Lisa Patterson purchased her tickets for the Route 91 Harvest Festival six months in advance. She loved country music and couldn’t wait to go with four female friends.
About an hour before a gunman opened fire on the crowd on Oct. 1, Patterson called her husband back home in Lomita and held her phone up so he could hear Big & Rich sing “God Bless America.”
“Me and my wife love this country and my wife was just a true American, just through-and-through,” Robert Patterson, 53, said Wednesday, Oct. 4, as he sat at Green Hills Mortuary in Rancho Palos Verdes, about to make arrangements for his wife’s funeral. “I know how much she loved that moment from the concert.”
Having a great time
Lisa Patterson called her husband again minutes later during a break in the show before Jason Aldean took the stage.
“She told me how great it was, how great the weather was and how much of a great time she was having,” Patterson said.
It was the last time they spoke.
As Aldean performed, gunman Stephen Paddock, 64, sprayed bullets from automatic weapons onto the thousands of people attending the show, killing Lisa Patterson — a daughter, wife and mother of three who devoted her life to her children. She was among 59 innocents who lost their lives. More than 500 were injured.
Throughout the Pattersons’ seven-year courtship and 21 years of marriage — their anniversary is Oct. 12 — they did not go more than a couple hours without talking.
“We always knew exactly where each other was,” the husband said. “There never was a time in 27 years where I didn’t know where my wife was.”
But Robert Patterson couldn’t find his wife Sunday night. He called her and received no response. Hearing nothing by Monday morning, he and his 16-year-old son, also Robert, jumped into their car at 6 a.m. and drove to Las Vegas. His daughter, Amber, 19, joined them from college in Flagstaff.
“I drove out there hoping she was just lost or maybe hurt and couldn’t find anything out for the entire day,” he said. “I literally drove everywhere I could and found out nothing until 8 (p.m. Monday).”
Lisa Patterson was on a list of hospitalized victims, but her husband couldn’t locate her with trips to four hospitals. At the end of the day, he learned she was at the county morgue.
As of Wednesday, Robert Patterson still didn’t know what happened to his wife. Nobody from the Las Vegas police has contacted him. Was she killed instantly? Was she injured and hospitalized?
“I have no idea. I would like to know,” he said.
Robert Patterson met Lisa Marhefka — a Rolling Hills High School graduate — when he visited a friend’s house and found her hanging out. They “clicked from the very beginning.” Las Vegas was always an easy vacation for the couple.
Robert Patterson, who owns a hardwood flooring company in Lomita, said he made it a goal when he opened the business 27 years ago to enable his wife to stay home with their children. She helped him with the company but, as their family grew, she focused on them and their education. She was adamant that her children attend St. John Fisher Parish School in Rancho Palos Verdes. Her parents were among the church’s founders.
She served for years as PTA president and became involved in her daughter’s softball league and son’s football team.
“My wife loved life. We lived incredibly happy,” her husband said. “She was 100 percent dedicated to her kids. That was pretty much what her life revolved around.”
On Tuesday, Robert Patterson drove home to Lomita to tell his 8-year-old daughter, Brooke, that her mother was gone. Family members had tried to shield her from the television news, encouraging her to watch cartoons.
“I told her that her mother was in a terrible accident and she was now an angel,” he said. “It was tough. I think she is kind of getting it because she has seen it on TV and she has asked my (older) daughter.”
Robert Patterson said funeral services likely will be Oct. 13 at St. John Fisher Church. A memorial fund established by friends on gofundme.com account had reached nearly $58,000 by noon Wednesday. Following funeral expenses, the money will be used to pay for the Patterson children’s tuition.
Robert Patterson said he remains in “total shock.”
“I’m just happy for the time I got to spend with her,” he said.