Pat McIlroy was many things to many people, but foremost she was a "lady."
McIlroy, 95, died Sunday evening but will forever be remembered as Destin's "first lady."
"I always refer to Mrs. McIlroy as Destin's first lady because Bob (her deceased husband) was Destin's first mayor," said Marcia Hull, executive director of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation.
"She was a gracious lady and she touched so many lives," said Hull, who worked with McIlroy on the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation as well as the Greening of Destin committee. "She had a heart of gold and was a first class lady."
Hull fondly recalls riding in the Destin Christmas parade with Mrs. McIlroy and her huge white poodle Pierre in their antique car representing the Greening of Destin committee. Hull said the poodle was so still and regal looking that children thought the poodle was fake until it turned its head.
"She just knew etiquette ... such a classy lady. She really made her mark on Destin, she was a remarkable woman," Hull said. "She was a great example for all of us. She opened up her home, her heart and her pocketbook.”
McIlroy supported various charities and organizations throughout the community such as Harvest House, Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast, Destin House and Destin Elementary Adopt-A-Class Program, just to name a few.
"She absolutely loved Destin," said her long-time friend Camille Morgan. "She was in that first group that tried to beautify Destin."
Morgan said she enjoyed playing cards and watching ball games together with McIlroy. But the one thing Morgan will remember most about her friend is "she was always cheerful, happy and pleasant. And she always remembered to ask about your family. She was a lovely lady."
Morgan also described her as a "very active person, interested in everything."
"Her outlook on life was so upbeat about everything," said Carolyn Hill, who has lived next door to the McIlroy's for the past 23 years.
"She was … so cute always wearing high heels and a smile on her face," Hill said. "She told the best stories. She was funny and enjoyed a good laugh."
But foremost, "She was always such a lady and she loved people," Hill said.
"They had a beautiful home and shared it with everybody," said Dot Jones, who worked for McIlroy for about 25 years.
"The things she could teach you," Jones said. "She could take something simple and make it beautiful. It was amazing what she could do," Jones said, noting McIlroy's home decor.
"And if you were in need and she found out, she helped with it," Jones said. "She was always doing something for somebody. She was very gracious and a good person. She was truly a blessing. There was nothing so important that she couldn't share it with somebody.”
Lloyd Taylor, who served alongside her late husband Bob as one of Destin's first city councilman, said Pat’s service to the city ran in her blood.
Taylor said he grew up about five houses down from the Fox family, parents of Patricia McIlroy, on Calhoun Avenue. "If Mr. Fox said it, you could bank on it."
And as for Mrs. McIlroy, Taylor said, "she was a wonderful human being and wonderful addition to the Destin community. I'm very proud to say they were citizens of Destin."
A memorial service was held Tuesday afternoon at the Destin United Methodist Church.
"My mother was kind, loving and supportive wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
"She personified what it meant to be a lady. She was smart, well-read, articulate, sophisticated, and a great conversationalist, at ease in any social setting.
— Cindy McIlroy Higgins (daughter)
"She appreciated beauty, nature, art, sports, travel and family. She was creative and stylish.
"She sat us down for 'grandmother talks' during which she taught us how to be polite, proper, and lady-like and focused on the concept of 'kindness'. She was very generous and gave me so many opportunities.
"She was the matriarch of a beautiful and successful family. I am proud to have had her as a grandmother."
— Courtney Higgins (granddaughter)
Patricia Fox McIlroy (Alice Patricia Fox) was born Aug. 7, 1917, and passed away Jan. 6, 2013. Born in Cortland, N.Y., in 1917 to Alice and Albert Fox, Patricia grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., graduated from Wells College, married Robert G. McIlroy in 1939 and moved to Detroit, Mich.
During World War II while her husband served in the Navy, Mrs. McIlroy and her children moved to Destin to live with her parents who had just built a home on Calhoun Avenue. When Bob McIlroy came to see his family while on leave after the Normandy invasion, he looked around at the beauty of the place and remarked, “Someday we’ll come here to live.”
After the war, they moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., where they lived for 36 years, always vacationing each year in Destin. Mrs. McIlroy was active in numerous civic and charitable causes in Pittsburgh and continued such activities after she moved to Destin in 1980.
She was on the board of the Destin Library, following in the footsteps of her mother and father who were among the founders. With her husband, she was active in the drive for incorporation of Destin. Subsequently Mr. McIlroy was elected Destin’s first mayor. Together they were members of the Greening of Destin committee.
Mrs. McIlroy was benefactor and friend to Harvest House, the Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast, Destin House, the Children’s Advocacy Center in Niceville, the Mattie Kelley Arts Foundation, the McIlroy Gallery at Northwest Florida State College, and to Destin Elementary where she supported the Adopt-a-Class Program. She was a member of the Destin United Methodist Church and the Living Forever Sunday school class.
She was predeceased by her husband, Robert, who died in 1993 and by her daughter Judith who died in 1947.
She is survived by her son, Peter McIlroy II and his wife Pamela who reside in Pittsburgh, Pa.; her daughter, Lucinda McIlroy Higgins and her husband David who live in Evergreen, Colo.; five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Her entire family had a joyous celebration of her 95th birthday at her home in Destin last August.
A memorial service will be held at Destin United Methodist Church Jan. 8 at 2 p.m.