Community remembers Patkotak for kindness
Laura and Crawford Patkotak knew this boy would be their last. When he came into the world at the end of September 2003, Crawford Sue Dillon Ahkivgak Avaqqan Patkotak came into a strong Inupiaq family with many siblings, years of history and a name that followed its course.
"Crawford Sue told me last year that he was proud of his name. He liked his name," said his mother, Laura.
First, he was called Crawford, after his father, a North Slope whaling captain.
He took after his father in that regard, with a love of hunting and a respect for the outdoors.
"Our very last trip with Crawford Sue was [the weekend of] Sept. 3," said Laura. "We flew him and his bud, Kenny, to Peard Bay with us at our camp. They wanted to help [his] older brother, Josiah, build his cabin and close it in before snowfall. They helped catch a caribou then, too."
They caught it and butchered it and then the family cooked it up. After, the boys combed the beach for shells and treasures and whatever else they could find.
Because of his family's lifestyle, Crawford Sue learned the importance of helping his people at a young age. He took to the responsibility well and sometimes, he tried to do so many things, be everywhere at once, get involved with too much, and his mother would have to remind him to settle down, take a breath, relax.
He had to remember to just "veg out," she said, to be a kid. On days when he did relax, "he'd ask and get his crew — his football buddies — involved before they could go and play football in the yard, or [go to] the beach and have a bonfire with his buddies," Laura said.
Being outside and being involved with his friends were conscious choices Crawford Sue made a lot. He had seen other kids, not much older than himself at 14, turn to drugs and alcohol. He was passionate about sobriety, his mother said.
That passion stemmed, in part, from his faith. Written in his bible study book in his quick, clear handwriting, he'd jotted down words to live by.
"To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction."
"Your kindness rewards you, but your cruelty will destroy you."
Kindness was an important tenet of Crawford Sue's life. Students who knew him said they remember him now as a genuinely nice person — as someone who cared for those around him.
"He knew he couldn't date until he was 16 or so," Laura said. "But, I told him to make many friends. This is the only time in your life it won't be awkward."
He took the advice to heart and made a lot of friends. His death at the hands of a family member last month sent a shock wave through the community. Students at the school put post-it notes on his locker, sharing memories and stories of those friendships.
At his memorial service at the end of October, hundreds of community members turned out — so many, in fact, they had to print more programs, said Angela Cox. Maybe 800 people, maybe a thousand turned out to remember him.
"Crawford Sue was loved," she said.
As a member of the wrestling team and Hopson Middle School football team, he used his position to encourage others, his coach said. He was the kind of student who paid attention to other kids, even those who sometimes slipped under the radar of their peers.
"He would see those kids and encourage them," said Vice Principal Charles TenBroeck. "He noticed everybody, even if they were not necessarily noticed by everybody else, and I thought that was pretty powerful."
TenBroeck coached Crawford Sue and had known him for years. He remembers him as a spitfire on the field who had a real sense of fair play.
"We don't get a lot of games up here because of our location. We're the only middle school team here. And this year, we got to play a game, which was rare. It was up in Barrow versus a team from Wasilla. Crawford was quarterback and he got pretty beat up in this game. He took a lot of big hits but he would jump up every time," said TenBroeck. "I refereed the game, so I was right there in the middle of the action. There was a few times he got hit hard and he would jump up and tell the kid, 'Good hit. Good hit.' You don't see that happen a lot. He was just like a little warrior out there. He wasn't the biggest person, but he was tough as nails."
Small and pigeon-toed, his mom described, he grew up skinny, but made lifelong friends with bigger kids down the block. He stood up to bullies and he emulated Russell Wilson, the quarterback from his favorite football team: the Seattle Seahawks.
"He'd talk to Aaka Molly and try to explain football or wrestling, the sport of it, the rules, how, why, different plays, different takedowns, and would try to convince you why that sport was so important and you should be just as interested," said Laura. "Gosh, I wish I had paid more attention."
But, she had paid attention with the keen eyes of a mother and remembered what he did in the morning, his routines, his carefully chosen clothing — slacks, button-down shirts and ties.
He looked just as at-home in a parky as in a dress shirt, like his namesake father.
Alongside his Inupiaq names, he had two others between his first and last: Sue and Dillon.
"I wanted to have a son with his dad's name," Laura said, but Crawford Sue was not the first.
His older brother, Crawford Dillon, passed away 10 years before his birth. So, the youngest boy took on his brother's middle name.
That brings his name to the final word, which is perhaps the most unique of all: Sue.
His father's mother, Susan, had passed away a few years before he was born. There were already many Susans in the family, Laura said, so she and her husband, Crawford, didn't name their girl after her. But, by the time their youngest came around, they decided it was time for a Sue.
And so Crawford Sue got his name.
Two weeks after their last son was born, Laura heard one particular song for the first time. It was Johnny Cash's "A boy named Sue."
She recalls hearing it and laughs. It was a good thing Crawford Sue also got a sense of humor and a good smile. But it wouldn't have mattered anyway because, he told her, he was proud of his name, his faith, his heritage, his community and his family. And they were proud of him.