Longtime Healdsburg High School biology teacher and former assistant football coach Patrick McDowell died on October 4 of complications from cardiac arrest. He was 56 years old.
A lifelong Healdsburg resident, McDowell was a pillar of the community and someone who gave everything to his family, friends and students, say those who knew him.
As well as being a dedicated trainer and teacher, he was an avid outdoorsman, family man, movie buff and someone you could always count on, friends and family said.
Tyler McDowell, a nephew McDowell treated like a son, described him as “honest, open, caring” and “non-judgmental.”
âNo matter what you believed or felt, it didn’t matter to him,â he said. âAs long as you were his friend, he would support you. I certainly experienced this as his nephew.
Some of Tyler McDowell’s best childhood memories were traveling with his uncle and the football team to away games and getting on the bus with the high school athletes, who appeared to be NFL players in this age.
He also remembered eating burritos while watching game movies with the coaches, one of the ways McDowell made sure people felt special.
âHe was there for a lot of advice for me when I was younger,â said Tyler McDowell. “I don’t think I would be the same without him, to be honest.”
Patrick’s younger brother Mark said family was everything to him.
âIf you needed anything he was always there no matter what it was,â he said.
Mark McDowell added that Patrick was quick-witted and always had a comeback.
âHe wouldn’t miss a beat,â he said. “We could probably write a book of all of Patrick’s quotes.”
Former student Joseph Tyler Yull, 35, said McDowell was an empathetic and hardworking mentor who tailored his teaching to the needs of his students.
Yull, now a graduate student at Sacramento State studying molecular biology, said McDowell had an incredible influence in his desire to study life sciences.
McDowell genuinely cared about helping students grow, whether in the field or in the classroom, and he had a great sense of humor that was silly and self-deprecating, but didn’t get in the way of teaching, Yull said.
âI just think he understood that he was there for the kids who were sportsmen and also for the kids who were nerds,â Yull said. “A lot of people have had a sense of direction from him.”
Gale Bach, a math professor at Santa Rosa Junior College who had known McDowell for over 40 years, said McDowell had grown from being his student to being a colleague and close friend.
“It was because of Pat that my son majored in biology at UC Irvine,” he said. “This is just one of the hundreds of students he has touched.”
âAs a friend, I could always go to him and ask his opinion on things,â Bach said.
âI will really miss him,â Bach said. âHe was like a brother.
McDowell played on the Healdsburg High School varsity football team from 1980 to 1982 and graduated in 1983. After graduating from California State University, Fresno, McDowell began a substitute teaching position at HHS and was quickly hired as a full time science teacher. He immediately started helping to coach the football team and continued to do so until about 10 years ago.
McDowell was “the voice of reason,” former head coach Tom Kirkpatrick said.
âEveryone loved Patrick,â Kirkpatrick said. âHe was a great man. And he had a bald head with a big, long beard. He looked fierce, but he was just the sweetest soul you can imagine.
He had a soft, calm and controlled voice, so when he raised his voice during a game it was very effective, Kirkpatrick said.
“My God, what can I say? Kirkpatrick said. âWe really loved each other. We are a family, and when someone dies so prematurely, it is very difficult.
Former Healdsburg science teacher Rob Lee knew McDowell both as a colleague and as a coach.
âHe just gave back so much to his school,â Lee said.
Lee added that one of his favorite memories of McDowell was when he drove to Emerald Bay State Park with his family and as they pulled up around the corner, “there was Pat McDowell sitting on a rock with his feet in the water “.
Tyler McDowell said it wouldn’t be unusual to find his uncle in the wild.
âHe walked for months,â he said.
He hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail, Shasta and Lassen Mountains, parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and more.
âI was looking forward to any camping trips we could do, whether it was in the jungle or in the snow, deserts, mountains, we were going everywhere,â he said.
When Tyler was 5, Patrick took him camping and hiking at Aloha Lake with his father, Mark.
Patrick McDowell kept telling Tyler that he had something special for his fifth birthday as they pitched tents in the snow.
When they got to the top of a mountain, âYou could see pretty much all of Lake Tahoe and he said, ‘You have all of this to explore. All. This is your gift.
This was just one example of how Patrick would go out of his way to open people’s eyes to the fun and breathtaking reality of nature, said Mark McDowell.
âHe liked to share this with as many people as he could. “
Healdsburg High School will remove their No.72 jersey during the 7 p.m. soccer game at Healdsburg Amusement Park on Friday, October 29 at halftime. A Celebration of Life will be held at the same location on November 21 at 2 p.m.