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Joe Robert Patrick

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Joe Robert Patrick, a longtime newsroom presence at both The Des Moines Register and Des Moines Tribune and then a faculty member and assistant dean at the Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, died from multiple causes Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Every Step Hospice-Kavanagh House.

Joe joined the R&T in 1948 and became state editor for both newspapers in 1966. He joined the Drake journalism faculty in 1970 where he was assistant dean until he retired in 1985. In that position, he was acquainted with all journalism students and delivered on the University’s promise for personal, caring attention to each one. He also taught generations of Drake students the art and discipline of copy editing. Writers often acknowledge, “Everyone needs a copy editor”. In Joe, they had a great one.

He was born Feb. 15, 1924, in rural Putnam County, Indiana, in his maternal grandparents’ farm home, a son of Walter and Helen Patrick.

Joe attended Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana, and then Vincennes University for a year before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps in November 1942 and serving in WWII until 1945. He advanced from private to second lieutenant as a communications officer. He served in the Air Corps Reserve and U. S. Air Force Reserve from 1945 to 1954, including a recall to active duty during the Korean conflict.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism with high honors from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in 1947 and then completed requirements for a Master of Science degree in Journalism from Illinois in 1949 while working at the Des Moines Tribune.

While a full-time student at Vincennes and at Illinois he also worked full-time at the newspapers in those cities. Joe worked as a copy editor, wire-service editor and then assistant city editor and special features editor at the Tribune before becoming state editor of both papers. In addition to being assistant dean at Drake, he also taught news-editorial courses and served as acting dean for several months in 1975 and 1981. During the summer months from 1970 to 1977, he continued working as a copy editor for the Tribune. In 1985 and 1986, he worked on the editorial and opinion pages of The Register. He was the manager of the News Election Service for the State of Iowa in the 1972 and 1974 general elections.

Joe was president of the Des Moines Community Playhouse from 1964 to 1966, and was a volunteer, board member and actor there for many years.

In his active church days, Joe was a ruling elder and the clerk of session of Windsor Presbyterian Church, Windsor Heights, and later at Covenant United Presbyterian Church, West Des Moines; moderator of United Presbyterian Des Moines Presbytery, 1963. He was a member of the executive committee of National Council of Presbyterian Men.

He was a volunteer at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center, and volunteer editor of Road to Dignity, the newsletter of the Advocacy Network for Aging Iowans.

Joe was a longtime member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, president of its Des Moines professional chapter in 1973-74, and adviser to the student chapter of SPJ during his years at Drake.

His many hobbies included amateur radio work, golfing, Rocky Mountain camping and fishing and, to the delight of friends and their children, making annual Christmastime rounds to deliver his homemade candies. He was well known for his habit of “collecting” New Yorker magazines and copies of the Des Moines newspapers, which he would mark up angrily with a soft-lead pencil. He had a lifelong love-hate relationship with the Chicago Cubs.

Joe is survived by his wife, Louise Anne. He had three children with his first wife, Peggy, who died in 2013, Kirk A. Patrick, a retired attorney, of Carbondale, Colorado, Dr. Kent M. Patrick, a retired orthopedic surgeon, of Basalt, Colorado, and Kathleen Murphy, who died in 2007. He also had four grandsons, Scott Murphy of Summit, New Jersey, Michael Murphy of Bozeman, Montana, Christopher Patrick of Denver, and Robert Patrick, of Palenville, New York, and three great-granddaughters and a great-grandson.

A commemorative service will be held this spring at the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Meredith Hall when health and safety conditions allow. Memorial contributions in support of the “Joe R. Patrick Green Eyeshade Award" which he created can be made to the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Meredith Hall 118, 2805 University Ave., Des Moines, Iowa, 50311. Donations may also be made online at In the Give To section, select Other, and then type in “Joe R. Patrick Green Eyeshade Award."



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