Life Lessons from My Mentor, Patricia Kolstad

Life Lessons from My Mentor

my mentor & friend

Patricia Kolstad, my mentor and friend.
THE (famous) HAIR
Well, she FINALLY, and ACTUALLY retired. After 25 years Patricia Kolstad has found a new, brilliant and lovely chapter in her life – unexpected, unlooked for, and completely deserved. She has been “Aunt Pat” to me for as long as I can remember and over the years has truly become a valued mentor in my life.

This blog is a small tribute to the extraordinary career of Patricia Kolstad and a guide for the kind of mentor we should seek to be and seek to have in our own lives.

Mentors are committed to “being there”

The work Pat has done professionally and personally to build and maintain relationships is founded on her belief in what is right. She is a helper, an encourager, someone who is there. And she has been there for so many. I admire her drive to bring care to the caretakers, to encourage the professionals who are so busy caring for others they lose themselves. She saw a need and she made choices and efforts to be there for these people. The caregiver to the caregivers.

Mentors value having many families

Pat is one of those people who makes you feel like family. She brings to her relationships a sincerity, depth, and loyalty that binds you together. Her dedication to her own family is deep and wide, and unbroken by anything. But Pat has many little pockets of other “families” – the ones she has created in her community and devoted herself to for the rest of her life. I love seeing the depths of these relationships and the diversity they bring to her life.

Mentors emphasize our continual need for wisdom

As someone who savors the wisdom of others, Pat has herself, become a sage whose advice I dearly cherish. Her 70th birthday party was decorated with tons of her favorite quotes and she gave them out as favors to all of us. She is a reliable source. She fights for justice but spills over with grace (I think it’s becoming very clear why she became my mentor).

Mentors demonstrate the power of honesty 

Pat knows herself and isn’t shy about where she stands or what she thinks – but there is always room and a listening ear for any thought or situation. I trust Pat because she is not a flatterer but I also know how deeply she is rooting for the best in my life and she tells everyone how much she loves them all the time. Honesty given in the safety of love is a rich gift.

Mentors have the courage to change

At 71 (this is how honest she is!) Pat has opened her heart to a new love, a new home, a new future. It’s amazing. I think she is an example to anyone, throughout her life, of the bountiful yield that a teachable heart, deeply desirous of doing and being good, is capable of.

My mentor, Patricia Kolstad and the O'Connor Chiefs
Patricia Kolstad and the O’Connor Mortuary Boys

When I think of Pat I think of the line from my favorite song in Hamilton, “What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.She has done just that. Her work has ensured that the truth about grief (and so many other issues) will continue to be spoken. I love that –  I love that her life has and will continue to yield truth for others in their most desolate of places. She has seen to it that the caretakers in our community, both professional and family, have the opportunity to be cared for and be seen. She has given her heart to the heart-broken and her outstretched hands to those in need of support.

Pat is the bridge who brought Dr. Bill Hoy to our community professionals in south Orange County. Since 2001, their educational partnership has given away thousands of free Continuing Education Units to professionals all over southern California. She has had a career that has helped innumerable people; something she can be so deeply proud of.

Aunt Pat, your friendship and mentorship are some of the most significant of my life. I love you, dearly, Aunt Pat.

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. Cheryl Lanterna says:

    Molly what an outstanding and well deserved tribute to Patty O’ (as some of us who have worked with her for many years refer to her!) She represented O’Connor Mortuary with dignity, integrity, warmth and knowledge. You have captured her essence and so much of what makes her not only a mentor but a true confidant and cherished FRIEND. How much I have learned from her in the years I have known her. I will miss knowing that she is right down the street but am so happy for her wonderful new adventure. Thank you for honoring her with your eloquence and insight!

  2. Joan Way says:

    I second what Cheryl said!!! I feel privileged to have known her and worked with her. I’m happy for her and wish her a wonderful retirement!!! You did a wonderful job in writing about her. I admire your talent for writing!!!

  3. Neil O’Connor says:

    Molly – Great job of capturing Pat, this was a lovely tribute to a wonderful friend! Cheers to you and PattyO, XOXOX

  4. Diane Kopylow says:

    You have captured Pat’s persona perfectly, Molly. Thank you for revealing so eloquently who she is and continues to be. For those of us who are so lucky to be her friend (and there are many), we can truly consider ourselves blessed.

  5. Paulette Greenwald says:

    Molly…. Thank you for sharing this beautiful insight of your deep affection for “Pat.” She truly lives and believes in “Healing Hearts, Inspiring Trust and Comforting Souls.” What an honor and blessing it is to know and love her.

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