Duluth Hall of Fame inductee Patrick Plys leaves legacy of givingLaura Plys had a simple and achingly accurate account of her husband’s life Friday evening.
By: Mike Creger , Duluth News Tribune
Laura Plys had a simple and achingly accurate account of her husband’s life Friday evening.
“He was a good man,” she said just hours after Patrick Plys died.
Plys, 48, died Friday from complications of brain cancer and a stroke.
“If it could be called a beautiful thing, it was,” Laura said. Patrick died at home surrounded by family and friends, she said.
Through the days before his death, she said, her husband amazed her with “his ability to choose joy through trial.”
And he gave joy through the years as a well-known community volunteer who was inducted into the Duluth Hall of Fame in 2010 for his community service.
After a stroke following a surgery in 2010, Patrick no longer could swat away efforts to help him in his struggle with cancer.
“He’d been fighting this for 17 years,” Laura said. When people asked about doing a fundraiser, Patrick would oblige. “But he’d say they should give the money to Africa,” she said.
For the past two years, all that giving to the community was pivoted, Laura said. “He had to receive instead of being on the giving end.”
“He realized the blessings,” she said of her husband’s lifetime of giving.
In 2010, when he was inducted into the Duluth Hall of Fame, Mayor Don Ness mentioned the motto Plys lived by. Ness said Plys was known for taking joy in serving others and for telling children: “Do the right thing when no one is looking.”
“He left a legacy that was serving others,” Laura said.
After the original discovery of cancer and a surgery to remove a tumor, Patrick went 13 years with a clean bill of health. In 2008, doctors found more cancer but he was declared cancer-free in time to watch his son Chris take part in the 2010 Winter Olympics as part of the U.S. curling team.
A third surgery in May 2010 led to the stroke.
“He’s as stubborn as the day is long,” Laura said of Patrick’s determination to bike around the lake in 2011. “There’s no stopping him.”
His hall of fame induction is well-deserved.
Plys was a chef and owner of a food brokerage business, Plys Superior Consultants. He was also one of the planners for the all-city Thanksgiving dinner at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
He did some catering and often provided food at funerals for people whose families would not otherwise be able to afford it.
Plys worked on numerous projects, catering and otherwise, with the Minnesota National Guard 148th Fighter Wing, and organized the Down Up North Buddy Walk for Down syndrome, raising $40,000 one year. He helped start a school in Africa, visiting the site three times to oversee its construction. He volunteered with youth soccer clubs, taught curling and was a longtime volunteer for Grandma’s Marathon.
He was also a volunteer for the Duluth Air Show, Boys & Girls Club and was a board member of the Paul Staudenmaier Boys & Girls Club of Duluth Foundation.
Last June, Plys fulfilled a lifelong dream by biking around Lake Superior.
Laura said there will be a funeral at noon Thursday at Duluth Vineyard Church on Arrowhead Road.
The high school sweethearts raised five children.
A humbled Plys, the 10th child in a family of eleven siblings, had little to say at the 2010 induction but repeated the words most knew him by: “I’m speechless. Do the right thing when no one is watching. Amen.”
This story includes information from the News Tribune archives.