UPDATE: Residents Mourn North Aurora Soldier's Death
One of Chris Patterson's former grade-school teachers described him as a great, talented student. He died recently after a roadside bomb explosion.
Kim Fennewald had just talked to Chris Patterson on Facebook a few days ago.
She asked him how the weather was and how he was doing.
The first word that came out of her mouth when she recognized his name in the Sunday newspaper was "no."
"I saw the story in the Beacon(-News) this morning and pretty much fell apart," she told Batavia Patch on Sunday.
Spc. Christopher Patterson, a 12B Combat Engineer with the Indiana National Guard, was killed last week along with three other soldiers by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. He was 20 years old.
Fennewald was Patterson's fourth-grade teacher in North Aurora. She and many others in the Fox Valley this weekend grappled with the news of his death.
"I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the four Indiana National Guard Soldiers killed in action this past week," said Illinois Adjutant General William L. Enyart. "The loss of these Soldiers is a loss to both our states and our entire country."
Patterson's parents traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to await the arrival of their son's body, the Daily Herald reports.
"He was one of those kids that was like an old soul ... I still can't believe it," Fennewald said.
Along with his red hair and freckles, Patterson had a smile and a sparkle that just made him stand out.
Fennewald taught Patterson at Goodwin Elementary School in North Aurora during the 2000-01 school year.
"I knew from the minute I had him in my class that he was going to do it, do something big," Fennewald said. "He was a kid I wanted my own kids to be like."
Patterson loved learning new things and was talented academically. He was sweet, caring and never got in trouble, Fennewald said.
Years after she taught him, Fennewald read about Patterson going to Valparaiso University and joining the Indiana National Guard. She decided to find him on Facebook and she did.
She took to social media again on Sunday to express her condolences to Patterson's mother Mary. In turn, Mary Patterson wrote Fennewald back and said her son was thrilled one of his former teachers found him online.
Proud To Serve
Patterson comes from a strong military family. His parents served and his brother Carl went to join the Marines.
His parents came to volunteer at Goodwin when they could. Education was important to them and they supported Fennewald as a teacher. Mary Patterson also threw her a wedding shower.
Residents echoed comments from Patterson's parents about their son's dedication to his National Guard unit. Kevin Warfel told the Daily Herald that Patterson knew he wanted to serve the country.
"I know that’s what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be," Fennewald also said of Patterson.
While official memorial arrangements are pending, West Aurora School District officials will meet to figure out what they will do in regards to Patterson's death, the Beacon-News reports. Patterson is a 2009 graduate of West Aurora.
"(As a teacher) you’re not supposed to have favorites … but I’ll always remember him," Fennewald said.
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To read our previous report on Patterson, click here.