The small town of Bartow, about 60 miles southwest of Augusta, has been in decline since the middle of last century and for the past two decades, Patricia Todd Jordan did all she could to turn back the course of history.
She founded The Bartow Museum in the deserted railroad depot (circa 1859) and created a tourist attraction filled with art and artifacts illustrating 250 years of Bartow and Jefferson County history.
She and husband Hubert Jordan, the Bartow mayor, bought an antebellum mansion and converted it into the Magnolia Mornings Bed & Breakfast that, during the Masters golf tournament every spring, attracts guests from as far away as Australia and Germany.
And every holiday — Christmas to Memorial Day to Halloween to Thanksgiving — you’d see Patricia, who friends called Patsy, on the streets with volunteers festooning downtown Bartow with decorations, including a Santa, sleigh and reindeer display riding off the balcony of the bed and breakfast.
Yet for all that, the most enduring and sweetest memory of Patsy to many residents of Bartow (pop. 286) are most likely the foot-high coconut layer cakes that she baked and distributed all over town for every imaginable occasion, her husband said.
If you were sick, there would be a knock at the door and Patsy would be standing there with a coconut cake. If you were celebrating a birth, a birthday, an anniversary, getting married — another knock, another cake.
“She must have made 500 of them,” said Hubert, who acknowledged Patsy didn’t make the cakes entirely from scratch as many believed — “There were bought materials” — but they, and Patsy’s intentions, were so good, it didn’t matter.
Patsy Jordan, 71, died Sunday at the Medical Center of Georgia after suffering a heart attack last week.
“She was Bartow’s wonderful first lady. She is absolutely irreplaceable and I don’t know what the town is going to do without her,” said Mary Mancin, a close friend. “I can’t think of anything that has ever happened here that she didn’t have a role in.”
When the Bartow Community Club gathered recipes to publish a cookbook, Patsy came up with the name: “Sherman Didn’t Burn Our Recipes.” Every Sunday she was behind the keyboard at Bartow United Methodist Church and friends say she never missed a performance or even a rehearsal of the Schoolhouse Players community theater since the group was formed in 1993.
She usually decorated the lobby for the shows and often provided the costumes for the actors. Yet, for all her prominence in nearly every public aspect of life in Bartow, she stopped short of taking the stage to act, said son Todd Jordan: “She knew what her talents were.”
Funeral services for Patricia Jordan were held in Bartow on Tuesday. She is survived by husband Hubert Jordan III; sons Todd Jordan, of Atlanta and Hubert Jordan, of Macon; sister Rita Hall and brother Terry Todd, and two grandchildren.