Striving to live a life of kindness and helping out, Pat Biltoft has a new perspective on St. Clair County as she recently moved here.
In February, Biltoft moved from Mountain Home, Ark., after the death of John, her beloved husband of 37 years. Although he misses John dearly, his new home in Leeds allows him to see his sons Ernie and Pete and four of his grandchildren, Sam, Sarah Rae, Piper and Alex Gray.
“My grandkids are really, really fun,” Biltoft, 75, said.
Originally from Wichita Falls, Texas, Biltoft enlisted in the Navy immediately after graduating from high school and was fortunate enough to live all over the United States and several places in Europe.
“After high school, I wanted to do something different,” Biltoft said. “I wanted to be independent and not do what women were expected to do in those days – get married. Being in the Navy made me recognize the importance of soldiers and the groups of people who take care of soldiers. It inspired me to be in the military for 25 years.
Biltoft retired in 2009 from the Army Human Resources Department and is enjoying his retirement.
“Sometimes I miss work,” Biltoft said. “I miss being part of a group and taking on a challenge, but I’m enjoying my retirement. Today I enjoy fishing, cooking, being with my family and reading a good book.
As a new citizen of Leeds and St. Clair County, Biltoft says community is about being home.
“Community is your safe and comfortable place,” she said. “Where you can explore new things and help others.”
Growing up in Wichita Falls, Biltoft’s father, George, was Irish and his mother, Linda, was Italian. His parents, the Arps, supported Biltoft and his three younger sisters, Bernice, Debbie and Suzie. Some of Biltoft’s fondest memories are fishing with his dad and laughing with his mom and sisters. An avid fisherman, Biltoft shared that this is how she met her late husband, John.
“I fished it a lot. It’s not something we’ve talked about often,” Biltoft said.
As for how she spends her time now, she finds joy in little things like Italian cooking, reading her favorite genres of books; the history and mystery and the creation of various fish dishes.
“Living in Europe, John and I have caught fish in many countries and learned many ways to cook them,” she said.
Traveling is another of Biltoft’s favorite things she enjoyed doing with John, his sisters, sons and their families. Throughout her military career, Biltoft (before and after being married to John) lived not only in Alabama, but also in Kansas, South Carolina, Washington DC, Germany and Iraq.
“We’ve done well overseas,” Biltoft said. “Our tours in Europe were good. We explored historical sites and learned about the differences and similarities we have with people from other countries. It was so interesting to see more of the world and find out what makes places unique, we learned about cultures and different ways of life.
Embracing a new way of life here in St. Clair County, Biltoft discovers the friendliness of its community.
“People have been friendly and helpful in helping me settle in,” she said. “Here in Leeds, people care about the local community. They have a lot of pride and it shows. It’s a beautiful, scenic place to live.
The picturesque is part of the perfect day at Biltoft, where she works in her flowerbeds, reads a good book, sees her children (and grandchildren) and enjoys nature alongside her pets, a dachshund named Puppy Dog and three cats; Sizzle, Sissy and Rusty.
“I also attend Adoration in my parish, Ste Thérèse. I find peace and grace in this peaceful time,” she said.
Sharing a love of travel with John, Pat said that throughout their many travels, the trips she fondly remembers were to Western Europe, Normandy, Paris, Rome and the Vatican.
“Foreign countries are very interesting,” Biltoft said. “Pompeii was amazing.”
As for places a bit closer to home, Biltoft says one place she hopes everyone can visit is Washington D.C.
“Historic military sites, our nation’s history, cathedrals…there is so much to see and enjoy,” she said.
Looking forward to exploring St. Clair County locally, Biltoft is excited to learn more about the unique small towns of St. Clair County.
“I want to study their history and the history of Alabama,” she said. “We have a lot to appreciate here, in our hometown and in our state.”
Inspired by so much lately, Biltoft finds joy in humanity showing kindness to one another.
“I’m inspired by people who have done good things for each other,” she said. “They are friendly, kind and caring. The other day I saw someone helping another person push their grocery cart. It’s the little things.
“With all the bad happening in the world, it’s time we started noticing all the good things happening around us. It’s inspiring to see organizations helping people with disabilities and to see people supporting people with disabilities. people, their schools and their communities.”
Reflecting on the good of humanity, Biltoft remembers the best advice she ever received: “Don’t underestimate your abilities. You are much stronger and able to surpass your abilities.
In return, Biltoft offers this advice: “You have to question your assumptions. Think carefully about the information given to you. Try to draw your own conclusions. Make a contribution. We are there for each other. The little things make the difference.”
She added: “We have to be sure to make the world a better place. Think about something other than yourself.
If you find yourself in a new chapter in life, like Biltoft, his advice is, “Learn to appreciate where you are in life. Find great support. Make a list, get organized, be open to suggestions and accept help. You can get things done, but it may take some time. Be patient.”
As an older citizen, Biltoft finds great pleasure in the little things.
Another thing Biltoft finds joy in is being a good neighbor. She believes that a good neighbor is someone who knows their neighborhood.
“A good neighbor participates in taking care of people. A good neighbor is someone who loves, respects privacy and celebrates individuality,” Biltoft said. “Leeds/St. Clair County is a good community and I’m happy to be here.