After nearly four decades of living in Oakdale, Dr. Douglas Patten and his wife Martha are trading in the Cowboy Capital for South America.
At least for 18 months.
A longtime optometrist in town, Dr. Patten said he and his wife have wanted to do mission work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for some time and now seems to be the right time to do it.
“We always said when we got old and gray, we would like to volunteer for one of these assignments,” Dr. Patten explained. “We put in our papers, filled out forms, got a gazillion shots.”
The couple has five adult children, all living and working out of state. Martha previously worked in Oakdale schools, teaching choir and drama and also gave private music lessons. Dr. Patten had his own optometric practice for years, selling it last year to Dr. Danielle Boyd, who changed the name to Valley View Optometry. He still sees patients, there, however, and the office hosted a special ‘going away’ gathering for the couple recently as they prepare for their 18-month mission trip.
“We said we would go anyplace we could be useful,” Dr. Patten added.
The Mormon Church has assigned them to the southern area of South America. Their ‘home base’ will be in Argentina but they could also travel to Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and more.
“They’ve already told us our assignment, we’ll help the leaders there with the open house/open chapel program,” he explained.
The goal is to offer information about the Mormon faith, the church beliefs and provide a welcoming presence, along with tours of the facilities.
The couple will leave July 29 for Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will attend a five-day training program to help prepare for the mission trip. That training begins Aug. 3. Then, on Sunday, Aug. 11 they are scheduled to leave from the airport in Salt Lake to start the journey to Argentina.
While it is an 18-month mission, they can make visits home but would pay for the trip themselves, and their family members can also visit them.
For Dr. Patten, it is almost a ‘full circle’ assignment, as he served a Mormon mission at the age of 19 and went to the northern part of South America, working in Colombia and Venezuela.
Locally, the Pattens have also been involved in Boy Scouts, and community organizations and projects throughout the years, along with raising their five children here.
A quarter century ago, Dr. Patten worked with the local historical society to microfilm past issues of Oakdale newspapers dating back to 1882. More recently, he was one of a group that worked with the historical society to help get the images transferred to digital format, and they have been uploaded for viewing at the Oakdale Museum on West F Street and at newspapers.com.
Dr. Patten said the plan is to serve their mission and then return to Oakdale, where he hopes to resume seeing patients at the Valley View practice.
“Martha and I have certainly loved living in Oakdale, we love the people, we love the location,” he said.
But, he added, they are excited for the opportunity to accept this mission and be of service.
“It’s going to be a wonderful adventure,” he said.