James R. (Pat) Paternoster, one of El Paso’s finest softball hurlers, pitched his last inning on Dec. 3, 2016. He was 88. Pat was the first El Pasoan to be named to a National Softball Congress World Tournament All-American team, in 1954. He was inducted into the El Paso Softball Hall of Fame in 1971.
Joining the Rugel Motors team in 1948, he led it to city and regional tournaments for three seasons. Pat pitched in seven World Tournaments with Rugel, Deal Motors, Bill Fields’ Fabens Texaco, El Paso All-Stars and Kimmel-Mena Realtors. He played right field for Kimmel-Mena in his last NSC World Tournament and had eight hits in 16 times at bat for a .500 average.
An injury in 1959 restricted him to other positions, but he played another 19 years as a significant hitter. His career total surpassed 1,200 strikeouts and 31 no-hit games.
Pat attended Texas Western College, played Miner basketball, and graduated in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He also played for Sammy Klink’s International Petroleum Oilers, the top independent hoops team in the region, and took on the Harlem Globetrotters.
Pat worked for Deal Motors, housed in the same Downtown building that 70 years later became El Paso’s first children’s museum founded by his daughter, Laurie Paternoster, and son-in-law, Michel Churchman. He later traded cars for real estate, using his distinctive baseball-themed signs as a licensed Realtor, working well into his 80s.
He was a member of the American Legion, and served on the board of directors of the Horizon Communities’ Improvement Association.
Pat was born to Albert and Teresa Paternoster on May 20, 1928, in Kingsford, Michigan, where he and his brother were local athletic sensations in baseball and basketball. He attended the University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship, becoming an “ace screwball and knuckle ball wizard” for the Wolverines. He joined the U.S. Army in 1945, landing at Fort Bliss, where he served two years as a clerk typist because he typed faster than anyone else in his company. During his service, he played baseball, basketball and football, leading teams to several championships. Pat was discharged as a sergeant in 1947, with World War II Victory and M-1 Rifle Sharpshooter medals. He was honored for his service this year by the Fort Bliss Sergeants Major Academy.
Pat was predeceased by his granddaughter Haley Paternoster, his parents and brother Tom. He is survived by wife Margie, sons James Jr. of El Paso and Steve (Jane Fertig) of Albuquerque, and daughter Laurie (Michael Churchman) of El Paso. He was a proud grandpa to Megan Churchman Ed (Robert Ed) of Waco, Texas, Justin Churchman of El Paso, Jackson and Jameson Paternoster and Rodrick Rubio of Albuquerque, and Madison McCarty of Vancouver, Washington.
He is survived also by sisters Lauretta Ann Christensen of Oak Park, Illinois, and Mary Rose Lowman of Liberty, Missouri, and dozens of nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life was held Dec. 16 at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 5005 Love Road, followed by burial at Fort Bliss National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please make memorial contributions to the James R. Paternoster Sr. Basketball Athletic Scholarship Fund at UTEP. Make checks payable to UTEP and note the scholarship name. Mail to UTEP Office of Institutional Advancement, 500 W. University, Kelly Hall, 7th Floor, El Paso TX 79968.
Blessed by good humor most of his life, Pat was known for his “Grandpa jokes.” “Why did the bicycle lean against the wall?” he’d ask. “Because it was two-tired!” In recent years he told doctors that he and they were like a hat and tie – “You go on a-head and I’ll just hang around.” Pat also liked to have the last word. “Mexican chair!” he’d say. “Silla, Dad,” we’d answer. So silla, Pops. Save us a chair.