Sad news out of Detroit this week as 36-year-old Patrick Hespen lost his battle with cancer. Patrick was a public relations representative with Chrysler, and with Ford and Audi before that, and he touched a lot of people in his all-too-short time in the business. At his funeral yesterday, those people provided him a rolling tribute from car companies far and wide.
(Photo by Sean Maynard) Hespen also served two tours in the Middle East with the Air Force prior to entering the public relations end of the automotive business. He was deployed after 9/11 and joined the National Guard upon his return.
I asked Keith Griffin to give me a few words about Patrick:
It was a sad Saturday when I heard Patrick Hespen had passed away. His long struggle against cancer had him crossing life’s finish line at the criminally young age of 36.
I first knew Patrick at Ford and then our friendship continued when he went to work for Chrysler. (He had also worked at Audi and VW in his career.) Two things set him apart as a PR person: an absolute love and knowledge for all things automotive as well as a genuine
affection and respect for people. Whether you were a writer for a top buff book or a freelancer at a Podunk shopper, Patrick treated you with respect.
What I’m most going to miss about Patrick is his enthusiasm. He just seemed to embrace life to its fullest. He made you happy whenever you saw him.
I know the 2100-horsepower salute in the form of 3 Dodge Challenger Hellcats at his funeral probably would have made him laugh out loud. It’s touching to see other manufacturers lined up cars for his final tribute.
Patrick Hespen is being remembered first as a car guy but most importantly he was one of life’s good guys. Cancer sucks, especially when it strikes down a man in the prime of his life who had such a promising future ahead of him.
The Detroit News reported from the event: “We wanted the procession to look like the Woodward Dream Cruise in December, knowing that’s what Patrick would have wanted,” said Hespen’s coworker Wendy Orthman, who put together the tribute at the funeral Tuesday along with Kathy Graham, another coworker. “We began having conversations about how we could get people to bring some cool cars because that was Patrick’s favorite thing.”
Hespen was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2012, shortly after he was married. It was a rare form of cancer that almost never effects people of his age.
At the service Tuesday, some 300 auto industry professionals and journalists from around the country gathered at the church to pay their respects. Monsignor Ronald Brown — who married Patrick and his wife Gina — noted, “Patrick fought cancer, a valiant effort, but he’s human and the illness overtook him,” Browne told his family and friends. “But it didn’t overtake his love for you.”