Patricia Ann Spratling was born Oct. 12, 1936 in Galveston, Texas to Esther Carlson Spratling and Charles Cecil Spratling. Her family moved to Houston when she was 7 years old, and she grew up near cousins and her fun and caring Aunts and Uncle, Ruth, Mary and Carl. Since her earliest childhood, Patsy was surrounded by all kinds of animals. Her backyard on Cason Street in West University Place boasted a huge chicken coop, where Patsy would spend hours each day with her feathered friends. Along with her pet chickens, Patsy also had a pet duck, a trusted and loyal Cocker Spaniel named Bill.
Patsy was quite a little imp as a child and asserted her independence via some crazy antics. Patsy’s dad, Charles, often traveled for work, and many times he brought along his wife and young daughter.
Sometimes, her mom would notice that little Patsy had gone missing at the hotels where they stayed. Her mom would go looking for little Patsy only to find her chattering away and visiting with the hotel maids in their break room, and eating her favorite Southern meal, Red Beans and Rice - with cornbread and collard greens on the side.
When relaying this story in later years to us, Patsy always commented that her mom tried to cook this meal for her, but just couldn’t get it right the way the maids did. Oh how those hotel maids loved the cute and precocious little Patsy Spratling!
From her earliest years, Patsy was as determined and stubborn as she was smart, cute, and sweet. More than once, at 6 years of age, she got mad at her mom for enforcing one rule or other, so she ran away from home. She packed a little knapsack, walked to the city bus stop, and took a bus across town all alone to her Aunt Ruth’s house only to be returned by her Aunt a few hours later.
Patsy was a fiercely competitive student, with a steel trap mind. She was never satisfied with any grade lower than A+, and almost always earned that mark. One of the rare times she did not earn the “plus” to that A was from a math teacher at Lamar High School. This teacher announced on the first day of class that she had only given one A+ in her teaching career, because she would only award that grade for a 100% perfect average (all 100s, all year long — on every homework and every test). So, Patsy set her mind and her goal towards earning the 2nd A+ in that teacher’s 16 year teaching career. She almost made it.
She earned straight 100s all the way through the school year, only to forget to sign her name to the last test of the year, which caused her to receive a 99. So, Patsy only earned an A. She cried for days.
With such amazing grades, it is no wonder that Patsy earned full scholarship admission to Rice University, where she continued her excellent academic work for 2 full years, all while dating her future husband, Steve, and staying active in the Elizabeth Baldwin literary society.
In the beginning of her sophomore year, Steve asked Patsy to marry him, and a June 5 wedding was planned. Her parents wanted her to wait to get married so she could be the first in her family to graduate college, but Patsy said she did not want to wait that long to marry Steve. She left Rice after a two year college career to marry him, and never looked back. Five children and 68 years of marriage later, she always remained sure of her choice. “I mean, really”, she said. “What did I need a college degree for? Just so they could tell me I was smart? I already knew I was smart! I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that. I knew I loved your Dad and wanted to marry him. I knew I wanted to stay at home and take care of him and raise a family. I knew I wasn’t learning anything at Rice that would help me be a good wife and mother, which was the only thing I wanted to do - so what was the point of staying?”
Steve and Patsy lived in San Francisco as newlyweds, where Steve was a Lieutenant in the US Navy. They later moved to Richardson, Texas, Beaumont, Texas, and then to Houston, where they continued raising their growing family before eventually relocating to their favorite place on earth, Bandera. There, they finished raising their last three children and enjoyed the peace, beauty, and quiet of their ranch on the sparkling Medina River for 44 years.
In Houston, Patsy was an active member of the Altar Guild at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and served for 14 years straight as the Room Mother for her children’s homeroom classes at St. Thomas Episcopal School. Patsy was always a ready volunteer whenever car rides were needed for field trips or cupcakes were needed for a class party. And, she hosted the BEST parties of any mom at the school, hands down. Anyone would attest to her entertainment skills - none were better. Even though we left St.Thomas School way back in 1979, I recently heard from some old Houston friends that her “Coliseum Parties” are still part of the folklore of our school’s past. Patsy hosted countless baby showers, wedding showers, birthday parties, and Avon or other such parties for friends starting out in business and needing some help. Once in Bandera, she helped throw amazing fundraising parties for the Frontier Times museum and other groups.
She was an “Entertainer Extraordinaire.”
Besides Steve, animals were Patsy’s main passion, but she also thrived while cultivating all sorts of plants. It seemed there was never a plant she couldn’t rescue. People would bring her their houseplants, droopy and withered, and ask if there was anything she could do. After two or three weeks at Patsy’s house, those plants would be back, good as new! For years, she ran a booth called “Patsy’s Plants” for the annual church and school fundraiser, the Fall Fair, which earned the most money of any other booth for the church.
Patsy’s animal and plant hobbies were only surpassed by her excellent culinary skills. Each night, her family sat down to a succulent dish - whether beef stroganoff, veal parmigiana, or steak and baked potatoes - or even just plain old spaghetti and garlic bread - it seemed that no one could hold a candle to her cooking.
When the family sat down for dinner, she expected her children to be on their best behavior. Do not eat a bit until after the prayer. Put your Napkin in your lap. Chew with your mouth closed. Try a bit of everything on your plate. Take turns talking. Do not reach for things at the table. It was always so important to her that her children learn and practice good table manners, that we showed respect for our elders, that the boys treat girls with gentleness, that we girls never call a boy on the telephone, that we worked and studied hard, and most of all, that we were always, always, always honest. Mom meant business. If we kids wanted to get away with something, we did our best to circumvent Mom and go straight to Dad, who was much more of a pushover. If Mom caught us misbehaving, oh boy — we were IN TROUBLE. So, if you see us joking around today, give credit to Dad.
But if we chew with our mouths closed, that is all due to our Mom’s vigilance and perseverance. Thank you, Mom.
One of Patsy’s specialties was throwing parties and celebrations.
Whether graduation parties, weddings, birthday parties or even creating outstanding Halloween costumes from scratch — Patsy provided the best for her family. Many a halloween costume — such as “The Moss Man” — for which she pulled an all nighter one Oct. 30 to finish or the Cleopatra costume she made for a granddaughter, will live on in family legend.
When raising her children, Patsy always pushed them to do their best in school and in any activities they tried. She often said, “It’s ok to get a B or even a C if you tried your best — but it’s never ok to get a B in conduct. Anyone can get an A in conduct — you just have to mind your teacher. You don’t have to be smart, but you do have to be polite and well-mannered. Your teacher deserves respect — I do not want to ever hear that my children misbehaved in school.”
On Muller’s Ark Ranch, so named after a harrowing night in the 1978 flood and because of Patsy’s enduring love for animals, Patsy raised many an orphaned baby deer, baby goats, baby squirrels, kittens, cats, dogs, puppies, llamas, donkeys, horses, rabbits, chickens, peacocks, sheep, sheep and more sheep!
Patsy served on the board of the Bandera Frontier Times Museum and the Hill Country Fine Arts Club from the 1980s through the early 2000s. Her artistic talent found an outlet in these clubs as well as in another hobby, making peacock feather wreaths. These wreaths were in high demand and sold as quickly as she could make them until arthritis in her hands and cataracts kept her from continuing.
Patsy was also instrumental in helping her daughter start Bandera Young Life. She hosted the original formational meetings in her home, sewed 50 tablecloths for the fundraising banquet, exquisitely decorated the hall for the first few banquets, sponsored kids to go to camp, helped find volunteers, and more. Patsy loved Young Life camp, and attended often as an Adult Guest. One year, a teenage boy from another state stood up at the end of the camp week and said a big thank you to “Miss Patsy from the smoking pit” (an area where kids were allowed to smoke). This boy said Patsy had patiently listened to him all week and helped to answer so many questions he had about Jesus. Never considering herself an “evangelist” at ALL, Patsy was dumbfounded but delighted when the boy said “thank you” to her for helping him to ask Jesus to be his Savior. When asked about it later, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I just repeated what I heard the camp speaker say — knowing Jesus is as easy as A-B-C. Admit, Believe, Confess. I don’t know why that boy got it when I said it and not when the speaker said it. I said the same thing the speaker did!”
Patsy was preceded in death by her Mom and Dad, her only brother, Joseph Spratling, and her loving Aunts Mary, Ruth, and Uncle Carl.
She leaves behind an adoring husband, Steve Muller, and five children, Matthew Muller (Lilianna), Michael Muller (Karen), Jim Muller, Linda Muller Berg (Tim), Ann Muller Strawn (Scott), and daughter-in-love, Susan Murphy Muller. She also leaves behind her nephews, Norman Pike Spratling, Gray Sratling (Dorothy), and grand nieces, Dottie and Reese Spratling, along with 12 grandchildren, Hannah Berg, Stephen Berg, Amanda Muller, Mike Muller, Jr. (Lupita), Ruthie Berg Park (Joseph), Lindsey Strawn, Meredith Muller, Nicole Rajtak, Sam Berg, Lance Muller, Rebecca Strawn, Deste Berg, great-grandson Noah Park, and great-granddaughter Naomi Park.
Patsy is now enjoying a pain free forever life in Heaven with her Savior, and we are happy for her that she can once again walk and jump and dance, smile and sing — and maybe even garden and tend animals. But as she departed this world, she left behind a hole as large as Texas in all of our hearts. This world was made better because she was a part of it. We will miss you, Mama.
Funeral was Saturday, Jan. 27, at First Baptist Church Bandera at 2 pm.
Pallbearers were Matthew Muller, Michael A. Muller, Jim Muller, Stephen Berg, Michael C. Muller, Samuel Berg, Lance Muller and Desté Berg.