, Gloucester, MA


June 21, 2012

My View: A 100th birthday tribute to 'Big Ike'

Isaac Patch IV, a local boy who has led an extraordinarily worthy, rewarding and influential life here and abroad during the past century, turned 100 Wednesday.

Big Ike, as his family calls him, served in the U.S. Navy and then State Department in Moscow during World War II. He then was posted in Manchuria, Prague, and Munich before moving to New York City in 1956, where he continued working on foreign affairs — unwittingly or wittingly — sometimes hooked up with the CIA. The family retired in the 1960s to Weston, Vt.

The first Patch to come to America from England settled in Salem in 1636. The Patch clan of farmers soon spread across Essex County. Ike's grandfather, farmer Isaac II accumulated over 350 acres of farmland in East Gloucester from Niles Beach to the Back Shore. His lawyer father, Isaac III, was mayor of Gloucester and later president of the Cape Ann Bank and Trust Co.

His mother, Helen Andrew Patch, grew up in LaPoint, Ind. Her brother, A. Piatt Andrew, earned a doctorate in economics at Harvard in 1900, settled in Gloucester and went on to an illustrious career, including 14 years as this district's U.S. congressman. The Route 128 bridge spanning the Annisquam River carries his name.

Our Ike, born in the family's house on East Main Street the year the Titanic sank, Fenway Park opened and the Red Sox won their first World Series, has wonderful memories of Gloucester and the world beyond, found in his two autobiographies: "Growing Up In Gloucester" and "Closing the Circle."

After attending the local schools, Ike went on to Amherst College for two years and enlisted in the Navy in January 1941 and was sent to sea in the Pacific. As the ship was plowing through rough seas south of Hawaii, Ike fell off a ladder and landed hard on the deck on his back, cracking a vertebra. During his months of slow recovery in Boston, he took an intensive Russian language course at Harvard and was given a medical discharge at age 29.

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