Drum Corps International
A Special Blue Stars mom

A Special Blue Stars mom

by Drum Corps International

This column follows up on the Fanfare column "Moms" from two weeks ago. Dawn Pataska Christianson marched in the Blue Stars Cadets 1968-1971 and the Blue Stars as a guard member in 1972-1975, aging out in 1979. She went on to work the souvie booth from 1980-1982 and is currently a member of the corps' board of directors. She first marched until January of 1976 and then decided to quit, stating that as a result of the action, "I actually broke my Father's heart and he didn't speak to me for over a month while I was still living at home. I was only a junior in high school. When I went back to the corps in 1979 to age out, he was on top of the world. I felt I corrected a wrong and have stayed very involved ever since." Dawn's daughter Deandra is also in the corps, and like her mom, joined at the age of 14. She was the guard girl in the old Blue Star uniform at the beginning of the 2002 corps retrospective show, "3 Decades," wearing the shorts, white boots, cross straps and the old helmet with the "Brillo" plume from the 1960s. Just before the corps entered the field for the first show of the season in Menasha, Wis. corps director Bill Sucha informed the corps members of the declining physical condition of Dawn's mom, Naomi Pataska. Naomi was known and loved to all in the Blue Stars organization. She would pass away soon thereafter. Many of the members were in tears and all decided to dedicate their performance to Naomi. The following are thoughts from Dawn. The first part is from a letter she wrote to the Blue Stars family. The second part includes further thoughts she has on the life and mission of her mom. Letter to the corps family: Dear Blue Stars family, I would like to share a bit of a story of my mother's last wish. You see, my mom had open-heart surgery back on March 11. She spent five weeks in ICU hooked up to almost everything the hospital owned, had to undergo a tracheotomy and was put on a feeding tube. She gained enough strength to be moved to the cardio wing for another six weeks. It was nothing short of a miracle that she was able to leave the hospital. We placed her in a nursing home with the hope that she would recuperate enough for her to return to her apartment. That wasn't to be. She continued to go three times a week for dialysis and was on oxygen. She also had a stroke while in the ICU which paralyzed her left side. She was never able to walk over five steps without the help of two people at her side. I spent every hour I possibly could throughout her stay at both places. This past Thursday, June 17, I talked to her and she asked me what I was doing that day, I said, "Well, I was going to pick up cups from Riverfest and Oktoberfest for the corps and take them up to Camp Decorah." She asked if I would come and get her, that she wanted to see the corps and she didn't know when she would see them again. Knowing our home show wasn't until July 23, I had to decide between that show (which would have been a real challenge) or our performance at Riverfest. She said, "I really want to see the kids." I knew this wasn't going to be an easy thing to do considering she was on a breathing treatment, medications and oxygen. I called my good friend and neighbor Patty, and said she really wanted to see the corps. We talked this through and I decided that I could do this. The nursing home had her ready at 4:15. With the last run through scheduled at 5:30, we were on our way to Camp Decorah. As we pulled around the last corner at Camp Decorah, she had tears welling up and said, "Oh Dawn, don't they sound great?" I said, "They sure do!" She watched the last run-through sitting in my car, with much pride and so thankful I picked her up so she could see the 2004 Blue Stars. On Friday morning, June 18, she stopped breathing during her dialysis, her weekend was filled with many complications and we decided as a family -- and talking with her -- that she had gone through enough. At that point my heart felt as if it were ripped out of me. Throughout the course of the weekend I was still able to tell her that the corps dedicated their first show of 2004 to her. She had a big smile on her face, and said, "They did, that's so nice." On Saturday night I told her about two newer busses we were able to buy as well. Again, that big smile! On Sunday night she closed her eyes, never to open them again. I will forever be grateful that I listened to my heart and took her to hear the corps one last time. Like I told the members and staff in a letter I wrote to them on Sunday, for their next performance and the many after she will be on the 50 with the best view in the house, up in heaven. No more pain, no more machines or needles. She loved the Blue Stars and everything we stand for. My mom, Naomi Pataska passed away very peaceful on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 Further thoughts for Fanfare: When I joined our Blue Star Cadets back in 1968, my mom did a lot of chaperoning for us. When I got moved to the big corps in 1972, she also did chaperoning, traveled to many shows, worked the Blue Stars' bratwurst stands, chicken barbecues, candy bar sales, and any other events that took place throughout the 1970s. When our children marched she continued to help out wherever needed. She supported our weekly bingo program and sometimes she'd get lucky and win, but ALWAYS gave us a nice tip. Funny she'd always get mad at the ones that wouldn't tip the corps after winning a bingo of any amount. She always would say, "If I ever win the lottery, I will make sure the Blue Stars get new buses, new equipment, and whatever you guys need." She worked every year in the bratwurst stand for Oktoberfest, breaking buns by the hundreds of thousands. Mom and I talked daily about the corps, and when last year it looked bleak financially for us and we really had to tighten the purse strings, she would say with tears, "Dawn, you have to find a way to keep this corps alive ... it's such an important activity and so many people love this corps. Keep looking for ways to find support for the Blue Stars. You have so much history and tradition. The Blue Stars have so many years to them and have so much respect in the drum corps community." Dad and her absolutely loved the corps. He passed away in 1992. They would always be the ones in the stands yelling, "THEY'RE ALWAYS READY!" when the announcer would ask if the corps was ready. I would want to turn inside out on the field waiting to go on, but inside I knew the pride they had for the corps. Mom and I talked daily about Blue Stars. I've been on the board now for four years. I do everything from fund-raising, baking, finding donations of anything the corps can use, alumni organization committee, mailers, cooking, souvies, and worked bingo until we had to shut that down a year ago. So, in a nutshell, I believe in the Blue Stars motto, "FCO," which is "Finis Coronat Opus -- The End Crowns The Work." And mom is now free from machines and is watching the corps from the 50 with the best seat in the house up in heaven with dad. She was always proud of my persistence in doing whatever it took to keep the Blue Stars alive. Mom and dad would be very proud of the 2004 Blue Stars. We are making our come back with as much pride as all generations that have worn the cross straps, buckle and pith helmet! I am so grateful that I took the time and picked her up to see the corps for her last wish, of course not knowing that her health would take a turn for the worse the next day. I will hold that memory in my heart forever. Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.