PHA Mourns Passing of Co-Founder, Jerry Paton

The founding of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) is a familiar story about four women who made plans around a kitchen table in Florida. But equally important to PHA’s history are the husbands, who were also co-founders, visionaries and partners in creating PHA. Jerry Paton, husband of Pat Paton, and one of the founders of PHA died Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, after a long illness.

Anyone who is a caregiver knows that the spouse of a patient living with pulmonary hypertension is an equal partner in the “PHight” to thrive. Jerry Paton was a loving husband who supported and championed his wife’s commitment to find a cure for PH.

Jerry’s wife, Pat, was diagnosed with (what was then called) primary pulmonary hypertension in December 1987. After her diagnosis, she was given the standard advice of that time: get your affairs in order, because you will likely live only another six weeks to six months. This critically ill woman had been running two Dairy Queens, handling their finances, and training workers to make Dilly bars, bulb-shaped cones with a perfect twist on top and correct change!

After being placed on an experimental drug, Pat’s health began to improve; she and her sister, Judy Simpson, focused their attention on building a network of support for people living with pulmonary hypertension. The sisters connected with two other patients coincidentally living in Florida. The four women and their husbands began to lay the groundwork for the organization that would become PHA.

Jerry was a member of the founding Board and co-treasurer during PHA’s first two years.  He served as treasurer for the next six years and then acted as assistant treasurer for several years.  He became an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees in January 2008.

Julie Paton Hendry Scholarship Award Created for PHA Volunteers

In the early days of PHA, before the association had staff members, it relied on volunteers for help. The Paton family saw the need for connection among patients living with PH. The Patons’ daughter, Julie, became PHA’s first full-time non-patient volunteer. When Julie died in 1998, her family wanted to honor her memory by recognizing the work she had undertaken in her years as a PHA volunteer. They created the Julie (Paton) Hendry Memorial Scholarship to bring deserving PHA non-patient volunteers to PHA’s biennial International Conference.

As we mourn the passing of Jerry Paton, the family hopes you will continue his commitment to PHA by contributing to the Julie (Paton) Hendry Memorial Scholarship in his memory.

Jerry Paton