LATROBE, Pa. – At dawn's early light, or twilight's last gleaming, he was there. Wearing a straw hat to protect his head from the sun, he tended the fields. In those days, Saint Vincent College grew acres of corn, but Brother Patrick Lacey's crop was grass and his tireless work helped turn what would've been just a big lawn into football fields suitable for NFL players.
Brother Lacey died last Saturday, the day the Steelers opened their 2010 season with a preseason game against the Detroit Lions. He was 79.
For a generation of Steelers players and coaches, he was Brother Pat, and he was everywhere during training camp, and he was always trying to help. Armed with a perpetual smile and a kind word for everyone, Brother Pat was willing to do whatever, but his main thing became the grass.
"Brother Pat was here from the beginning, in charge of the fields, among other things, when we first got here," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "He worked hard to keep the fields up to what we needed. It was basically a one-man show – Brother Pat – and some of the ball boys took care of the fields."
One of the ball boys who helped Brother Pat tend the grass when the Steelers first started to spend complete training camps at Saint Vincent College starting in 1967 would become the team president. Art Rooney II saw first-hand how hard Brother Pat worked to make sure the fields were up to NFL standards.
"I worked with him for a long time," said Mr. Rooney. "We used to line the fields together and cut the grass and water the grass. He and Jack Hart, who was our field manager back in those days, if they decided it was too hot we had to get up at midnight and go down and water the fields. So we spent a lot of time together, and he was one of the hardest-working people you've ever met. And one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.
Back in 1963, Brother Pat was chosen to lead the Archabbey's newly established fire department. Beyond responsibilities surrounding fire safety, Brother Pat served as a repairman for the Archabbey, ran the college's sheet metal and plumbing shop, provided fire inspections in a neighboring parish and was Saint Vincent's bowling coach from 1970-1981.
But to the Steelers and the hundreds of thousands of fans who visited training camp every summer, he was the kind man who was always tending to the grass.
Brother Patrick Lacey is survived by two sisters Jean Lantzy and Sally Skirsky of Carrolltown, Cambria County, and a brother, Thomas J. Lacey of Hedgesville, W.Va.
Visitation will be held at St. Vincent Archabbey's Elizabeth J. Roderick Center from 3-5 and 7-9 p.m. Tuesday and from 3-5 p.m. Wednesday. A vigil will be held at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Archabbey Basilica.
A mass of Christian burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Archabbey Basilica.