UW-Whitewater to rally around longtime announcer
WHITEWATER — Tom Pattison was there to help raise money when Edgerton native and UW-Whitewater graduate Jay Baker lost his legs after a drunken driver hit his motorcycle in 2003.
In 2010, Pattison played a major part in collecting contributions to help former two-time All-American linebacker A.J. Raebel in his recovery from testicular cancer.
Now the 60-year-old Pattison, who was the play-by-play announcer for Warhawk athletic events for nearly a quarter of a century, is the one in need.
Pattison was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer in May. He underwent surgery at Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital, but doctors could not remove the entire tumor. He just began his second round of chemotherapy, which leaves him dehydrated and tired.
On Saturday, UW-Whitewater will attempt to repay Pattison for his many hours of dedication to Warhawk athletics by accepting donations before and during Whitewater's WIAC football game against UW-River Falls at Perkins Stadium.
"It's humbling to be on the other side of it," Pattison said Wednesday. "I always did my darndest with my website (to help others). Now it's me, and I'm not sure how to react."
Pattison did not have insurance when the cancer hit. He retired from the radio business last year.
His medical bills have reached $175,000.
"It puts a lot of strain on you," Pattison said of the mounting bills. "There's a lot of anxiety."
"The financial aspect of this has really taken its toll," said Bob Berezowitz, former UW-Whitewater football coach and Pattison's close friend.
Berezowitz, UW-Whitewater Athletic Director Paul Plinske—a survivor of testicular cancer—and radio station KOOL 106.5 FM have established a Team Tom Cancer Fund to help defray some of the medical expenses.
Pattison, who is known as "Voice" for his work describing football, basketball and baseball games—he also announced a volleyball match for the first time—on WFAW AM and KOOL 106.5 FM, still is close to Warhawk athletics, despite leaving the radio business.
A member of both the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and the UW-Whitewater halls of fame, Pattison began Warhawkfootball.com in 2003 to promote the school's football program.
"He was one of the people behind the scene, I guess you could say, before the success of our program," Warhawk football coach Lance Leipold said. "He is consistently working to get the word out. He never asked for compensation and invested a lot of his own resources to try to get the word out about Warhawk football."
Pattison was hired by WFAW AM in 1988 when the station went to a 24-hour broadcast day to do news and describe UW-Whitewater basketball. He is well known throughout the state for his work, which included being a fill-in announcer for the Brewers in 1995 and also spending six years in the 1990s driving to and from Lambeau Field in Green Bay as producer and voice of Goetz Broadcasting's "Titletown Report."
"I'm a small-town guy (from Durand), so Division III is a big thing for me," Pattison said.
Pattison said Raebel, who has recovered from his cancer, and his family have been a source of strength.
Berezowitz has been a stabilizing factor in Pattison's battle.
Pattison suffered a stroke in 2006 in Berezowitz's office. He recovered from that, and now Berezowitz makes a daily call to check on Pattison.
Berezowitz and Pattison went to the game at UW-Platteville last Saturday. Pattison, a former president and member for many years of the Quarterback Club and the Tip-Off Club, still contributes to his website, but now he adds stories about his medical battle along with game and feature pieces.
"I've been doing a lot of writing about it for only one reason—if just one person reads it and understands to get checked out when they are not feeling well," Pattison said. "I didn't do that."
Pattison says he began feeling odd around the time of last season's Stagg Bowl, in which the Warhawks won their third straight NCAA Division III football title. Between the December game and when he was diagnosed in late May, he lost 60 pounds.
Berezowitz said Saturday's fund-raiser would include raffles and helmets from the Packers, Badgers, Cowboys, Broncos and Warhawks. Family members of Pattison will be there to help him in what will be an emotional and physically demanding day.
During the second quarter, current Warhawk athletes will pass buckets around the stands to collect money.
"It's a combined effort of men and women athletes," Berezowitz said.
That is a fitting gesture to help Pattison, who has spent countless hours publicizing thousands of Warhawk athletes and being there in times of need.
"He's given a great portion of his life being part of Warhawk athletics," Leipold said.