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Andrew Patner – A Chicago cultural icon vanishes

Andrew Patner was everything I wanted to be.

Intellectual. A published author—his slim volume on I.F. Stone is a must-read Chicago classic. A reporter for the Wall Street Journal. I still remember him edging into a conversation of Sun-Times reporters at the Billy Goat. This would have been in the late 1980s. I was complaining that my agent, Betty Marks, couldn’t seem to sell a book that wasn’t about tea gardens. “Why don’t you use my agent?” he said, offering up powerhouse David Black the way you would toss somebody a book of matches. And so I became a published author too, thanks to Andrew.

RELATED: Critic Andrew Patner dead at 55

His program played on WFMT Monday night, as it always does. On Tuesday he was dead, at age 55.

“Our Andrew is no more,” said his longtime partner, Tom Bachtell, adding that Andrew died after a very brief battle with a bacterial infection.

The city of course knew him by his reviews in the Sun-Times, heir to Robert Marsh and Wynne Delacoma, a man who had culture coursing through his bloodstream. They knew him from his program on WFMT, an oasis of calm and music and deep, profound knowledge, as well as his dry wit. I was always deeply grateful to run into him at a dinner or party or opening, knowing my evening was about to be enhanced with some first-rate conversation.

He struggled, as everyone does. His father Marshall Patner, was a prominent attorney who cast a long shadow. When Andrew’s childhood friend died of AIDS, he cared for him so diligently that he lost his job at the Wall Street Journal. He got on fine without them.

He had a wide circle of friends, and this sudden loss will be devastating to them. It is also an unexpected blow to Chicago’s cultural scene. It’s as if the Water Tower collapsed overnight. Nobody will replace him. Oh, there will be people who will write of music, and host programs. But who will do so with his verve, this enthusiasm, his depth of knowledge?