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Faces Behind the Numbers: David Patillo

Greenlawn Funeral Home
David Patillo with his beloved dog Henry.

A 'small' anniversary trip

When David and Jennifer Patillo celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2020, they planned for a private weekend getaway to Arches National Park in Utah. But Jennifer remembers when David decided to include their sons in the trip.

“And he said, ‘man, how about we invite the boys?” Jennifer says. "Like, are you serious? It’s our anniversary trip!”

But for David, the party was just getting started.

“And, oh yeah, the best friend Zack, he’s a best friend of one of my sons," Jennifer adds. "Hey, Zack’s hanging around, you mind if he comes by? ‘No, love to have him!’ He’s coming.”

Before long, David and Jennifer’s anniversary retreat had turned into a family vacation.

“But that was his nature, to invite people and [say] ‘Hey, come on in, come on over, come and stay!’ That’s just how he rolled and he loved it.”

David Patillo met Jennifer at Tarkio College in northwest Missouri in 1987. In 1990, they married and moved back to David’s hometown in Willard, starting a family of four children.

David’s daughter Savannah remembers little things that her father said that would make the whole family laugh -- like when he was served soup at dinner.

“Just like this, every time, he would say, ‘You know, I’m not really fond of soup.’ Every time, that’s how he would say it," Savannah does an impression of her dad as Jennifer laughs. "‘I’m not really fond of soup.’ He’d eat it, but that was what he always would say, I don’t know why.”

Working so his community could read

David finished his degree at Missouri State University in finance and started working at the Springfield Greene County Library part-time. He fell in love with his job and, after getting a master’s degree in computer information systems, he became the IT Director for the library.

“He was always working," Jennifer remembers. "He was on call all the time. He loved his job. He loved it. And he didn’t mind always being on call. He was always doing stuff for work.”

With a dedicated team, he helped build up phone systems, book checkout technology, and internet infrastructure for the library. When he wasn’t working, Jennifer says he was always reading – discovering the latest technology to make the library better for patrons. And, despite being a self-described introvert, he often presented about it at library conferences.

“He was always super super duper nervous," she says. "But he always prepared, always had new technologies to show. Staff always loved his presentations because he would try to show them and teach them things."

She remembered the time he shared an idea with her – a way to make the library more accessible to all. It was an idea she thought at the time would never work.

“He said, ’I’m thinking about putting in a 24-hour library.’ And I was like, ‘What? Who would want to go to a library at 2 A.M.?’”

That idea became Library Express West, a kiosk open seven days a week at all hours, making library books more accessible to neighborhoods in west Springfield. David was looking forward to working on building another kiosk in east Springfield. Sadly, he wasn’t at the dedication of the Library Express East in the parking lot of the Frisco building on E. Chestnut Expressway in late August.

'You are amazing'

In the summer of 2021, David started running high fevers and tested positive for COVID-19. Even though he was vaccinated against the illness, his oxygen levels continued to drop.

But, despite being so sick, Savannah remembers her dad calling to check on his staff at the library.

“His boss was like, well aren’t you sick right now? Why are you calling? Like, it’s fine!”

When David was taken to the hospital, he made sure to take his work computer. And, Jennifer said, he remained upbeat – showing others around him kindness even as he fought a deadly virus.

“Constantly we’d get that, he is such a nice man, from the nurses there, Jennifer says. "And he is so very kind to other patients here that don’t have the support that he has.”

The reason David’s illness was worsening became clear when doctors discovered he had an advanced form of leukemia. It prevented his immune system from fighting the coronavirus.

“It wasn’t until he was on a ventilator, that we were talking and he said, ‘I’m scared. I’m scared this is gonna do me in,’” Jennifer remembers.

Despite his health care worker’s best efforts to save his life, David Patillo passed away on August 8, 2021. He was 52 years old.

Throughout his life, David was always thinking of others -- from his idea to make books more accessible to his community to turning a “small” wedding anniversary trip into a rowdy family gathering. Jennifer says she feels lucky to have spent 31 years married to the love of her life.

“I can genuinely say that we really liked each other. And that I think is the hardest thing to do in a relationship, is to say that, ‘man, I really like my spouse.’ I really liked spending time with him.”

She misses his constant compliments and his encouragement – and being able to tell him each day how grateful she is to have him in her life.

“Even before he passed, we were still complimenting each other. ‘You are amazing, you are going to do well at this, you’re going to conquer this,’ Jennifer says. "And we just did that all the time with each other, and it’s something you don’t think about in your day to day life.”

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.