SKILKEN, Patricia

📷SKILKEN, Patricia Stout Born in the front bedroom of her grandma’s house in Carrollton, Kentucky, on December 11, 1943. She was the much-loved and only child of Robert and Ora Downey Stout. She grew up in Dayton, Ohio, on Amberley Drive, which she described as the perfect childhood street filled with a tight-knit community of ordinary heroes.

Patty spent her grade-school years raising hell, neglecting her intellectual gifts, and earning the consternation of the nuns at St. Agnes School. A lifelong night-owl, she scorned her bedtime even as a child and frequently accompanied her father, a Supervisor at the Dayton Water Department, on his late-night inspections of the pumping station.

Patty attended Julienne High School in Dayton. During that time, she met her future husband and true love Ralph Skilken. She wore a light-blue gingham dress on their first date, hand-sewn by her mother, and they were married on August 22, 1964. He was her rock for 59 years.

Shortly after she was married, Patty became ill with Crohn’s disease and narrowly avoided death – thanks to her stubborn and tenacious nature, as well as the heroic efforts of her surgeon, Rupert Turnbull of the Cleveland Clinic, of whom she would speak glowingly for the rest of her life.

Patty later moved to Columbus with her husband and adopted her first child, Jennifer Hazel (Skilken) Whittaker. She loved Jennie as fiercely as a child could be loved, and often described the incredible gift of someone placing Jennie in her arms for her to raise. Jennie was soon joined by another daughter Melissa, and a son Adam, all of whom she adored and raised to be “children of the universe” – theologically tolerant, curious and Compassionate.

Notwithstanding her uninspired academic record, she achieved notable professional successes. Setting an example for her young children, Patty spent more than a year in front of a typewriter writing a book, Never Apologize, Always Explain, which was published by Everest House in 1982. The book is a memoir of Patty’s life and how she dealt with her ileostomy, and it stands as an enduring testament to the obvious shortcomings of the people who give out Pulitzer prizes. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to find an out-of-print copy on Amazon.

After her book tour, which included television appearances on “Hour Magazine” and a show in Baltimore called “People Are Talking” (hosted by an as-yet unknown Oprah Winfrey – and you can fact-check us on that), Patty opened a women’s shoe store in Dayton, Ohio, which she named The Foot Fetish. The success of her shoe business led Patty to start Career Seminars, Inc. in the late 1980s, where she led seminars fueled by bravado and a feminist notion that women should be business owners. Eventually, Patty settled into a real-estate career, which resulted in dozens of plaques on her walls, countless satisfied clients, and commissions that were spent on antiques and flashy jewelry. Later in her life, she volunteered for the Dayton chapter of the League of Women Voters, quickly becoming the President and honing her charming yet autocratic leadership style. She also became a professional actress, appearing on stage as Blanche Bickerson at the Actor’s Theater in Fairborn, Ohio. If her myriad exploits have piqued your skepticism, well3;she would have loved that.

Not once in her 78 years did she allow another human being to cry alone in her presence. Her mastery of cursing would have made a sailor blush, and she would have objected to the lack of expletives in this obituary. (“What in the #^&@! is wrong with you kids? I thought I raised you better than that!”) She enjoyed a good debate and breaking rules. She thought the answer to most of life’s challenges could be found in a book. She loved Broadway and Judy Garland and had a song and movie line to fit every life event, geographical location, and weather condition imaginable. She made everyone in her orbit feel stronger and more confident and would provide maternal nurturing to whomever crossed her path. She loved horses and dogs – really all animals, including people.

Patty passed away on July 25th at home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, surrounded by family and love. Patty is survived by her beloved husband, Ralph; her children, Jennie Whittaker, Melissa Skilken (Hill), and Adam Skilken; their spouses, Rob Whittaker, Brian Hill, and Melissa Szabad Skilken; her five grandchildren, Michael Whittaker, Mahoney and Peyton Hill, and Jed and Eleanor Skilken; and two spoiled terriers. She is also survived by loving family throughout Ohio and Kentucky as well as scores of dear friends. She was a horsewoman, an outspoken advocate, a gifted decorator with no regard for budgetary constraints, an artist, a cinephile, a lover, a fighter, an adoring daughter, a devoted wife, a mother in the truest sense of the word, and a “bad-ass Grandma.” In the movie of her life, she would be played by both Maureen O’Hara and Bette Middler. As her husband once described her in a full-paged ad in the Dayton Daily News, “Patty Skilken is dazzling!” We have lost our North Star.

Visitation will be Saturday, August 6th, 10:00-11:30 am at Tobias Funeral Home, 5471 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, followed by a brief service at 11:30 at the funeral home and burial at David’s Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly asks that you consider a donation to the League of Women Voters at or to the charity of your choice. Condolences may be made to

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Funeral Home Information

Tobias Funeral Home - Far Hills Chapel

5471 Far Hills Ave

Dayton, OH