As Patty Crocker was growing up, she spent many hours playing in and walking the paths of Jefferson Barracks Park. “When we were children, my friends and I used to enjoy sitting on the bluff of the Mississippi River near the old train depot and waving at the people in the boats down on the river,” said Crocker. “The park was my backyard. I always loved being there. As I grew older I became even more interested in the rich history of Jefferson Barracks.”
Today, Crocker works for the Mehlville School District in the facilities building located in the old post hospital building. In front of her desk is a collage of photos of Jefferson Barracks.
“I like to know how things became as they are now. The building that I work in was built in 1905-1908 and was decommissioned in 1946. The upstairs surgery floor has been vacant since that time, but when I go there I can easily imagine the floor as it must have been in the past when it served as a busy, vital medical facility,” said Crocker.
The Mehlville School District facilities building has other roots as well. Crocker mentioned that the basement of the building once served as the post morgue, because it was the coolest part of the hospital building.
Keeping the Jefferson Barracks Park beautiful and safe is one of Crocker’s passions. She is currently on the Friends of Jefferson Barracks board of directors where she serves as secretary. She has worked on park projects for years in various capacities, working at the June concert series, the adult egg hunts and preening the park grounds.
One of her major accomplishments was to work with the Boy Scouts to clear the brush from the area down by the old railroad tracks. “The project involved making a path for a trail by the river. It was a big job, but we did it. We were very careful not to disturb the old building foundations in the area,” said Crocker.
Crocker also worked with a team of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to beautify the north gate entrance into the park. The project involved gardening, painting and a general cleanup of the area.
In another capacity, Crocker volunteers as a member of the Jefferson Barracks Community Council, a group that gathers information from the many activities of the community groups in the area and helps them stay informed as to what is happening.
Among Crocker’s many and varied roles at Jefferson Barracks is her role as a Trail Watch volunteer for the St. Louis County Pars Department. “It is kind of like a "Neighborhood Watch" program only on the Parks Department trails. We have a telephone number to contact a dispatcher who will send a ranger right away,” said Crocker.
"We also try to encourage bike riders and roller bladers to wear helmets for their safety and just try to be as helpful as possible when walking or riding the parks trails. I spend a lot of time at JB's trail and at Cliff Cave's trail.”
A self-proclaimed history buff, Crocker said of her volunteer work at Jefferson Barracks, “To me the history of Jefferson Barracks is fascinating. I thoroughly enjoy being part of the effort to preserve the property.”
Crocker and her husband help to maintain the grounds of the old, red brick building near the parade grounds where the Missouri Civil War Museum resides, as well as lending a hand wherever needed. “Originally it was the old post exchange and gymnasium building. Most of the original buildings were limestone. They got the stone from the quarry that was once on the post grounds. Later, they used red brick for the buildings because it was much more durable than limestone,” said Crocker.
This year Patty Crocker received an honor at the Mehlville School District 31st Annual Recognition Night. She is the Classified Employee of the Year from the district’s Jefferson Barracks facility.
When Crocker is not tending to her job or volunteering at Jefferson Barracks, she enjoys being with her family. Always a sports enthusiast, she still enjoys playing and working out to stay fit. Her Mini-Cooper is her pride and joy. If you see her driving it around the neighborhood, give her a honk and a wave.