Legendary teacher, coach, and pastor in the Belleville and St. Louis area, Larry Edgar Patton passed on to his heavenly home on July 29.
Born July 2, 1940, “Coach” was raised in Fairview Heights, Illinois, and graduated from Belleville Township High School in 1958 where he was a star student, basketball, and baseball athlete, and where, most importantly, he met the love of his life, Diane Lengfelder. Larry attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale on a baseball scholarship where he majored in mathematics and played four years for the Salukis, and a teammate of legendary baseball coach, “Itchy” Jones. In addition, he was thrilled for his younger brother, Mel, to join him at SIUC and play two years before Mel was drafted in the 11th round by the Cardinals in 1961. Larry earned his bachelors and masters degrees and accepted his first teaching and coaching job at Belleville Township. In 1961, Larry married his soulmate, Diane Lengfelder, who resiliently and faithfully walked beside him for over 62 years-truly an eternally faithful companion. When Belleville East first opened its doors in 1967, Larry was the inaugural varsity baseball coach and served in that role for 27 years until his teaching retirement in 1993. During that time, “Coach” managed the Lancers to 544 wins, numerous championships, six state playoff appearances, four “final fours”, St. Louis Area Coach of the Year, and was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Lancers Wall of Fame in 2018.
Larry had a life-changing experience of Jesus Christ at an annual conference of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 1971, in Fort Collins, Colorado. From that point on, he became deeply committed in his Christian faith, a certified lay preacher, and sponsor of the FCA huddle at Belleville East, a role that became a treasured ministry. “Coach” cherished his students and athletes, and credited FCA students for leading him to the Lord. He once said, “I was like the paralyzed man being brought to healing in Jesus by my student-athletes”, inspired by their faith and devotion.
After Larry’s teaching retirement, he continued his education in divinity school and was ordained a minister in 1994. He loved the church and served in ministry on staff at St. Matthew Church up until his full retirement at the end of 2021. Beyond that, he continued to faithfully serve as a teacher, preacher, counselor, visitor to the sick, and officiating services-right up until the last few weeks of his life on earth. He was a generous friend to all.
Larry was a deeply committed and involved father to his four children, their spouses, twelve grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. He profoundly enjoyed getting together with family (even if it meant frequent drives cross country), sharing stories, laughing a lot around the dinner table, watching and attending events, ball games, and Cardinals baseball. All his life he remained passionate about baseball. The last four months of his life, Coach thoroughly enjoyed almost nightly watching his grandson Drew play for Triple “A” Rochester of the Washington Nationals, making steady progress toward his major league dream.
Sharing life together with his wife, Diane, and family was truly the great blessing of his life.
Coach Patton is survived by his:
- Wife, Diane Patton, nee Lengfelder
- Sister, Lynn Marie Arney, nee Patton, and her daughter, Brittni Brower
- Lauren Spring, nee Patton, of Joliet, MT
- Lynelle Millas, nee Patton, of Swansea, IL
- Larry Dean Patton of Carrollton, GA
- Luke David Patton of Nolensville, TN
- Sons in law:
- David Spring
- Andrew Millas
- Daughters in law:
- Jessica Patton, nee Wolf
- Faith Patton, nee Roberts
- Austin (Alira) Spring
- Andria (Gage) Hinsz
- Aaric Spring
- Drew (fiance Ashley Jaspers) Millas
- Abby Millas
- Annabel Patton
- Micah Patton
- Eleanor Patton
- Kendall Patton
- Avery Patton
- Maddy Patton
- Caleb Patton
- Great grandchildren:
- Scarlet Spring
- Saige Spring
- Numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews
He was preceded in death by his:
- Parents, Edgar and Jonelia Patton, nee Becherer
- Grandson, Samuel Luke Patton
- Brother, Melvin Dean Patton
- Deron Patton
- John David Patton
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in memory of Reverend Patton can be made either to:
- St. Matthew Church
- Metro East Fellowship of Christian Athletes, www.618fca.org, 331 Salem Place, Suite 205, Fairview Heights, IL, 62208, or
- ONE MORE CHILD (food ministry for vulnerable children). Make your check payable to: St. Matthew “One More Child” and designate “One More Child” on the memo line of your check as well. St. Matthew Church, 1200 Moreland Drive, Belleville, IL, 62223.
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