First baby born at Lourdes looks back

Talking about milestones in Patricia "Pat" Sullivan Roach's life is like taking a tour of Pasco landmarks.

There is Lourdes Medical Center, where Roach, who turns 90 this month, was the first baby born in the "new" hospital.

Today, the portion where her mother gave birth to her on Sept. 15, 1921, is known as the old wing.

It's the same hospital where she delivered seven of her nine children, regularly volunteered until about five years ago and served on the board of directors.

"I just always loved that hospital," she said.

Pasco High School is where Roach graduated in 1939. Sixty-five years later, in 2004, she was inducted into the school's hall of fame. It's also the school where all of her nine children graduated, and where she volunteered as a PTA member.

Then there is the old Liberty Theater, now shuttered in downtown Pasco, where Pat Roach, at age 20, became the first Miss Pasco by winning the applause-o-meter at a pageant in 1941.

"I had no talent," she said, but that didn't seem to matter to the audience, who clapped loudest for her. She suspects winning had to do with being well known in town, since her father owned New Pasco Drug, which closed in 1959 after 48 years in business.

And at the old St. Patrick's Parish, she took on the last name of Roach when she married Jack Roach in 1946. That was after World War II ended and after she earned a degree in sociology from Seattle University, the school all nine of their children went on to attend.

She was there when the congregation finished the new St. Patrick's Parish in 1963 and when her father became the first member of the congregation to have his funeral held in the new building.

She has attended the church and watched the congregation grow to almost 5,000 families, said son Tom Roach. The majority of the members are Hispanic, which meant the addition of Spanish Masses in the 1970s and a diversity that his mother has appreciated.

Pat Roach volunteered at St. Patrick's Catholic School, where all nine of her children attended. And when the school would only accept children who lived in Pasco, she and her husband moved the family from Kennewick in 1959 because, Tom Roach said, it was then the only Catholic grade school in the Tri-Cities.

At Mark Twain Elementary School, Roach worked as a librarian for 12 years after her husband, Jack, had open heart surgery in 1968 and went on permanent disability. That's how she supported the family, which included six of their nine children who were still at home.

Daughter-in-law LeeAnn Roach, who is married to Pasco attorney Pat Roach, remembers how her mother-in-law used to bring books home to read so that she could give recommendations to teachers and students.

But what impresses her children most isn't all that Pat Roach has done, but the person that she is to this day.

Tom Roach said in his 62 years, he can't recall his mother ever once saying something unkind about a person, even those who may have deserved it. When he gave a speech in 2004 when his mother was inducted into Pasco High's Hall of Fame, he told the crowd how his mother's greatest achievement was being a successful mother.

And LeeAnn Roach remembers how Pat Roach has always seemed to be a woman ahead of her time, always accepting of people from diverse backgrounds. Even during the 1960s, she was friends with many of her black neighbors, her daughter-in-law said.

This weekend, Roach will add another milestone, as she celebrates her 90th birthday in the Tri-Cities with friends and most of her family, which includes 44 grandchildren and almost 14 great-grandchildren.