Friends remember Monroe as quick-witted, generous
MANCHESTER — Friday evenings at Wayne Bell and Tara Dowden's home on Highland Avenue — also known as Seamus O'Dowden's Public House — are usually a happy time. Folks stop by for a pint, bring a snack to share, and enjoy the company and conversation.
For years, Patrick Monroe of Manchester was a regular guest at those gatherings. Indeed, he helped put up the sheet rock ceiling over the addition where guests gather.
"Anytime you called and asked, he was right there," Bell said.
This past Friday, Bell, Frank Sutton and Paul T. Carroccio, sat in that room and shared fond remembrances of Monroe, their friend. He died on Dec. 21 at St. Peter's Hospice in Albany, New York after a long illness.
They remembered Monroe, who sat on the town Planning Commission during Manchester's development boom and served as president of the Manchester Rotary Club, for his quick wit, his sharp sense of humor, and his generosity with his time and talent.
And they had stories. So many stories.
There was the time the paper mache mascot of the Manchester Lions Club disappeared from its home in a building at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park — and somehow found its way onto the Rotary Club float, wearing an oversized diaper, for the annual Loyalty Day parade.
There was the time, as a character in a Dorset Players production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," that Monroe updated the audience with a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees baseball playoff score. "The director was so [angry], but everybody loved it," Bell recalled.
And there was the time Monroe taught his rescue dog, "Katy the Wonder Dog," to carry the bank deposit bags from his business into the bank.
Monroe, who came to Manchester in the 1980s following a successful career in marketing and public relations, was tireless with his time as a volunteer, his friends said. But he was also persuasive when he needed something. "He was your quintessential salesman. He could sell you anything and he had a joke for every occasion," Bell said.
Monroe's sense of humor could be bawdy, "but he was very kind and honest, and a really loyal and good friend," Bell said. "If he was your friend, you were in fat city. "
But there was more to Monroe than his quick wit and sense of humor.
"The truth was behind that shield, that facade of a comedian .... was this heart. Just a big heart," Carroccio said. "He'd do anything for anybody that needed help and we're all going to miss him. "
Sutton said Monroe was one of only two people who called him Francis, and that was usually on the phone, with the greeting ""Francis can I ask you a favor?"
"That sticks with me — that term of endearment," Sutton said.
"He called this one particular time and asked 'Can you pick me up?' He couldn't drive, but he had to do Meals on Wheels," Sutton said. "He had to deliver food ... and the only way was to get someone to drive."
Monroe was a stickler for picking up the tab at a restaurant or bar, Carroccio said. But he also insisted on traveling to visit his brother Marvin in a Florida hospital, despite the fact he was having a hard time getting around.
"He couldn't even walk. He had a wheelchair, but he had to get down there," Carroccio said. "It was a hell of a trip for both of us, but he did it."
Sutton recalled the time he spent playing tennis with Monroe, even when a medical condition made it hard for him to play, and how they enjoyed trips to the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York City. "You couldn't help but be with him," he said.
Carroccio said he met Monroe in about 1987, and that the two became friends quickly. "We admittedly hit it off because we had a sense of humor that was somewhat warped," he said.
In fact, Monroe talked his new friend into trying out for a production at the Dorset Players: "The Mouse That Roared."
As Carroccio recalled, on opening night. there was a scene where Monroe was supposed to utter a line "and then the queen appeared," which would bring the queen on stage. But Monroe was getting the line wrong, and the queen remained in the wings, awaiting the correct cue.
So Monroe improvised. "Finally, he goes "Hey queen, come out!" Carroccio said.
A native of Flint, Michigan, Monroe came to Manchester in 1986 following a career in marketing and advertising at companies including Colgate Palmolive, ADT, and London International/LRC Surety Holdings, where he ended his corporate career as a vice president of sales and marketing.
He and his wife Joyce purchased Wilson's Country Clothiers, which was located where Fortuna's Italian Deli is now on Main Street.
He served on the GNAT-TV board for eight years, hosting the program "Focus." He served as treasurer of Manchester Health Services, and volunteered for the Center for Restorative Justice, Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, the Dorset Players. He served a year as the Sunderland Zoning Administrator.
He also wrote for this newspaper.
"Patrick was always very accurate" as a reporter for the Manchester Journal, Bell said.
How accurate? "He'd want to insert four-letter words quoting the person who said them," Carroccio said with a laugh. All three recalled the time Monroe wanted to use a very salty quote from a meeting in Dorset as the newspaper's front page quote of the week. (An editor intervened.)
Monroe's time on the Planning Commission came when the late Ben Hauben of Manchester Designer Outlets was purchasing property downtown and proposing retail development. Bell recalled that Monroe instituted a 1,500 square foot requirement for retailers that became known as the "Monroe Doctrine," in an effort to limit the interest of national retailers.
Then there was Katy, a dog belonging to a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. The animal was malnourished and in need of care when it arrived in Manchester, and Monroe took in the animal and brought it back to health. Eventually, Katy would learn tricks, including the ability to carry the day's business deposits into the bank.
"Prior to that Patrick was not in any sense a dog person," Bell said. "But he just decided he was going to help this dog, and she was extraordinary."
Monroe is survived by his wife Kathryn L. Fox of Manchester, his daughters Kathleen Monroe of San Francisco and Joyce Abbott of Montgomery, Pennsylvania, his son James Borocz of Redding, Connecticut; a brother Marvin Monroe of Novi, Michigan, sisters Mary Kay O'Neil and Georgia Monroe, and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Hope, and by his wife, Joyce Monroe.
Calling hours and a memorial service are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11 at 2 p.m. in the Park House at Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park, under the direction of Brewster-Shea Family Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Northshire Rescue Squad, the Manchester Fire Department, or GNAT-TV.
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