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Patricia 'Patty' Clark Haberstroh

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Published in July 2023

Patricia (Patty) Clark Haberstroh passed away peacefully on Monday at Yale-New Haven hospital in Connecticut at 73. Married to Charlie for 49 years and a proud mother of four and grandmother of nine, Patty bravely waged a six-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

A 20-year social worker in the Department of Human Services in Westport, Conn., Patty dedicated her life to helping others in need. As the Town of Westport’s Family Program Coordinator, Patty ran and supported countless important initiatives: the annual Back To School program which helped provide backpacks, school supplies and shoe store gift cards for hundreds of children from low-income families; The Family Holiday Giving Program, which provided Westport children of need with holiday gifts; Westport Mentor Program Coordinator; Summer Campership Program; Afterschool Scholarships; Thanksgiving dinner donations; MLK Day Basketball Clinics; Minds in Motion; and Prom and Graduation Gowns Program.

She also took immense pride in volunteer work for Westport’s public schools, serving also as PTA president of Coleytown Elementary and Staples High Schools and on the PTA Council. One of her proudest achievements, Patty served on a Westport ad hoc committee to reject an attempt by referendum to cut town education expenses by $1 million in the mid-1990s. Around this time, Patty also was a key member of the “new” Staples High School planning committee. She was a masterful storyteller and, most importantly, a trusted colleague and friend. In Westport, she cultivated a vibrant community of true friendships built and tended to over a myriad of Friday Pizza Nights.

Her dogged commitment to helping others was only bolstered in October of 2017 upon learning of her terminal illness.

Faced with a degenerative disease with no cures or effective treatments, Patty sought to reverse that fate for current and future generations of people living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Shortly after her devastating diagnosis, Patty became an influential leader in the ALS community through her relentless advocacy and fundraising efforts. Patty and the Haberstroh family launched the viral #ALSPepperChallenge campaign on social media, raising over $1 million for ALS research, largely benefiting the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI). Thousands of supporters from around the world posted videos of themselves eating hot peppers in honor of Patty and to raise awareness for ALS. Celebrities such as Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Kimmel, Andy Cohen, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley participated in the challenge by chomping on jalape?os and habaneros on national television. Patty never did like eating spicy food, but happily did it for the cause.

Patty was deeply honored to receive ALS TDI’s 2018 Stephen Milne Adventurous Spirit Award for her selfless advocacy and MDA’s Wings Over Wall Street Spirit Award in 2020. Patty’s unwavering tenacity inspired her sons to help launch a grassroots Lou Gehrig Day committee, which, beginning in 2021, successfully established an annual awareness day every June 2nd in honor of Lou Gehrig across all of Major and Minor League Baseball. This is just one of three such days at the MLB where a league-wide athlete and associated cause is celebrated by all teams.

Born November 23, 1949 in New York City, Patty was the daughter of the late William Lee Clark and Patricia Braden Clark, who nicknamed young Patty “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Pollyanna.” The oldest of four children, Patty attended Darien High School in Darien, Conn., and was debuted at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., with a B.A. in Government.

An avowed feminist, Patty started her career in finance at Bank of Boston. Upon hearing that her male trainee counterparts at Bank of Boston earned more than female trainees, she marched into human resources. After hearing traditional arguments of why the pay imbalances were justified, Patty fought for her female peers and successfully secured equal pay for all. Later, in Boston, she met her husband Charlie Wesley Kelakos Haberstroh, who had been working in New York City also as a banker.

When Patty and Charlie married in September, 1974, she relocated to Chemical Bank in New York City, appropriately enough in Human Resources to manage the Performance Evaluation Function. After the birth of her second child, she requested a part-time job. When her employer asked her to reconsider, pointing out she would have to give up her management job, she said she would accept only a part-time job in order to tend to family. When informed there was no part-time job, Patty requested the bank to create one, which they did.

In 1986, with four children under the age of six in tow including twin newborns, Patty and Charlie moved the family to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to support Charlie’s career. After four and a half years in Brazil and becoming fluent in Portuguese, Patty and the Haberstrohs moved to Westport, where she committed her life to public service and education.

Patty is survived by Charlie, her husband of 49 years and caregiver for six; her son Chuck and his wife, Jacque (Horelik), of Westport, CT; her son Steve and his wife Erin (Graves) of New Canaan, CT; her daughter Kim Haberstroh O’Sullivan and her husband Philip of Norwalk, CT; her son Tom and his wife Allison (Hall) of Charlotte, NC; Patty is also survived by nine grandchildren of whom she was most proud: Charlie, Laney, Eve and Grace of Westport, CT; Mac and Walker of New Canaan, CT; Jonathan O’Sullivan of Norwalk, CT; Madelyn and Molly of Charlotte, NC; her three younger brothers Bill and his wife Sue, Hayes and his wife Clare, and Robert Clark; her nieces Katie, Debbie and Joanie and nephews Braden, Lee and Chris.

A celebration of Patty’s life will be planned for early Fall in Westport, CT. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Compassionate Care ALS.

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