Patricia M. Gomez, formerly of Iowa City, died peacefully at Milestone
Senior Living Center from complications of Alzheimer's disease on Feb. 7, 2020, having led a life devoted to family, teaching and social justice.
Born on St. Valentine's Day, 1932, in Chicago to Florence (Girolamo) and Anthony Difanis, she was the second of five accomplished daughters. In 1936, her family moved to Eau Claire, Wis., where numerous relatives had already settled. Patricia enjoyed an idyllic childhood, living in the house her father built on the Chippewa River and spending her summers at her uncle's nearby farm where she raised animals (as pets) and learned to drive a tractor by the age of 12.
Patricia graduated from St. Patrick's High School in 1950 and then entered the Wisconsin State Teachers College (now UW-Eau Claire) to study biology. In 1952, she moved to Chicago and enrolled at De Paul University. She also began working at the Jane Addams Hull House, and it was this experience that sparked her life-long commitment to social justice.
While working as a lab technician in Chicago, Patricia met Dr. Nicolas Humberto Gomez of Matanzas, Cuba. They married in April 1955 and by 1961 they had settled in Rock Island, Ill., to raise their four children.
In the 1960s, Patricia completed her degree in biology from De Paul, earned a teaching certificate and began teaching in the Rock Island parochial schools. Patricia had a deep love of teaching and spent the majority of her career in the Wisconsin Technical College System, where she taught a generation of EPA-certified wastewater facility managers, and where the curricula she developed are still in use.
In the 1970s, Patricia started a new life in rural Elmwood, Wis., purchasing a beautiful farm straddling the Eau Galle River. She retreated to this acreage with its 120-year old log cabin when she was not teaching, and she had many wonderful summers there with her first grandchild. When she did travel, Patricia always spent time with family, whether it was with her daughter in California or with her sisters and cousins scattered across the country.
After retiring from teaching in 1998, Patricia moved to Iowa City to provide child care for more grandchildren. She continued to support social justice causes and made many friends in the Iowa City peace movement. In 2005, she returned to Wisconsin to be near her other daughter. She continued her political activism in the Wisconsin Socialist Party.
Patricia is survived by her four children, Mark (Patricia Chong) of Iowa City, Luke (Carmen) of Inver Grove, Minn., Concetta of Alameda, Calif., and Annette (Kris Perlberg) of Stoughton; her grandchildren, Gabriel, Andrew and Mark; as well as her sisters and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Patricia's life will be held sometime this summer at her farm in Elmwood, Wis.