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Forres dad’s poignant tribute to his kind-hearted son, lance corporal Derek Patterson, 44

The Elgin RAF reservist battled throat cancer for five years before passing away earlier this month.

Derek Patterson, well-known face in Elgin and Forres.
Derek Patterson, well-known face in Elgin and Forres.

“He was my right-hand man, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this.”

These are the heartfelt words of Raymond Patterson, speaking about the loss of his 44-year-old son, Lance Corporal Derek Patterson of 2622 (Highland) Squadron.

The RAF Lossiemouth reservist from Elgin died earlier this month following a five-year battle with throat cancer.

Early years

Derek Justin Patterson, who latterly lived and worked in Moray, was born on March 29 1980 in Stirling Maternity Hospital.

Son of prison officer Raymond and his wife Margaret, he had one older brother Richard.

In 1982, the family moved to Sunnyside Nursery in Cleland, so that Raymond could help run the family business, alongside his dad and siblings.

There, Derek attended Cleland Primary School before moving on to Coltness High School in Wishaw.

At home with the RAF

After just 10 years in Lanarkshire the family moved again when Raymond was transferred to Leicester.

Missing home and feeling unsettled Derek found solace in the form of RAF cadets. Always a fan of dressing up in military clothing as a child, his passion for model aeroplanes and the Royal Air Force would continue throughout his life.

Proud of his RAF connection, Derek Patterson.

After leaving school at 16, Derek worked for his dad at Forbuoys supermarket chain, in charge of all the paper boys.

A strict taskmaster Derek always made sure the job was done properly.

A move north to Forres

In December 1997, Raymond’s role took him to Forres. Derek made the move with his parents. Combining a recent driving test pass he helped develop a rural newspaper delivery service which resulted in Derek being given his own van.

It became clear that Derek’s skills lay within making his dad’s shop as inviting as possible. So much so that his merchandising abilities came to the attention of the Coca Cola Company, who offered him a job as a retail sales executive, covering the north of Scotland.

Father and son, Raymond and Derek Patterson.

“Being headhunted by Coca Cola really gave him a confidence boost,” said Raymond. “He loved travelling all over Aberdeenshire and the Highlands. That was one of the happiest times of his life.”

Making Elgin home

In 2000, Derek bought his own house in Ashfield Drive, Elgin. Even an unexpected redundancy didn’t cause dismay for long, as he was recruited by Cadbury within the week.

Covering the same “patch” Derek loved driving through spectacular scenery, especially when his job took him to Skye and the islands.

Derek loved Scotland’s majestic scenery.

Alongside his sales career Derek maintained his passion for the Royal Air Force and in 2005 he became a part-time volunteer reserve member of 2662 (Highland) Squadron in Lossiemouth.

As he’d come to be known, Lance Corporal Patterson was an inspiration to those he served alongside.

The embodiment of RAF values

Sergeant Jon Tointon paid tribute to his friend and colleague, who trained with the squadron 27 days in the year.

“Derek gave so much of himself, both in his personal life and in his service life.

“He really was a lynchpin among the junior non-commissioned officers in our squadron.

“He demonstrated what ‘service before self’ really looked like.

Part of the Highland Squadron, 2622, Derek Patterson.

“Always the first to volunteer his time for extra duties, always happiest when he was being of use to others.”

2622 Squadron is an RAF regiment and police rolled unit, providing force protection.

“This means we protect the rest of the force to allow them to get on with their jobs. As  RAF regiment lance corporal, Derek commanded a team of four in duties including active patrolling, vehicle checkpoints, and in the quick reaction force, to respond to incidents on base,” added Sgt Tointon.

Always a fighter

Despite an active lifestyle, Derek suffered a heart attack aged 37, then five years ago was diagnosed with throat cancer, not long after his mum passed away on Christmas Eve 2018.

“He tried to keep the news from me. He kept working and fought his condition every step of the way,” Raymond added. “To give you an idea of what he was like… he drove himself to hospital when he had the heart attack.

Loyal RAF lance corporal, Derek Patterson.

“There was nobody quite like Derek.”

To combat the cancer Derek endured chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and was part of a clinical drug trial. After getting the all clear, the cancer more recently returned.

Heartbreaking journey

Raymond explained: “He knew there was something going on and genuinely – like always – made sure everyone around him was okay, first.

“He kept working until nine months ago, and was still helping his friends and elderly neighbour until he couldn’t do it any longer.

“He didn’t tell me he was terminal. Though I sort of knew. It was heartbreaking.”

Private person, devoted to his loved ones: Derek Patterson.

When eventually Derek’s condition worsened he moved in with his dad in Forres.

He passed away on May 9 with his family beside him.

He was laid to rest in Burhead Cemetery alongside his mum. RAF friends were pallbearers at his funeral.

Huge loss, greatly missed

Derek will be fondly remembered by his wider family of aunts, uncles and cousins to whom he remained very close.

Derek Patterson, far right, at the wedding of his brother Richard and wife Kate. Also pictured are Raymond and his late wife Margaret, and his nephew Fraser.

He is deeply missed by his father, brother Richard, sister-in-law Kate and nephew Fraser, and his many dear friends.

Raymond added: “He was my right-hand man. If you needed Derek he dropped everything and helped you out. Any one of his friends would say the same.

“He is a huge loss. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”