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Patau, Peter Hinrich

Patau, Peter Hinrich

MADISON—Peter Hinrich Patau died in a Madison hospital after a brave battle with congestive heart and kidney disease on Aug. 18, 2017. As a photographer, writer, and artist Madison has lost one of its great chroniclers and true appreciators. His remarkable photographic eye and vivid writing style captured iconic Madison scenes, political events, and Madison moments for decades. He was a frequent contributor of photos and writing to many Wisconsin publications—including Isthmus, Madison Magazine, The Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times, and many others. In recent years Peter focused on publishing his work online. An early adopter to the internet, it was an ideal way of sharing his writing, his ideas, his drawings, and especially his photographs. Letter From Here, his blog; his Facebook site; and his Flickr site are all marvelous troves of his energies and interests, drawings, and a viewing gallery for his photographs. His family hopes that you will stop by them and take a look.

Peter-Hinrich Bernard Patau was born in Berlin, Germany, on Nov. 7, 1942, to German parents. His father, Klaus Patau, later became a UW Genetics Professor and researcher. His mother, Christine Auslander Patau, was an aspiring opera singer. His younger brother, Jurgen, was born in 1945. A photo-filled Life Magazine cover story about Madison reached Peter’s father in Berlin—enchanted by the photos, he moved his family to Madison in 1949. Peter graduated from Madison Central High School in 1960 as valedictorian. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Peter met the young woman who would become his wife, Trudi von Arndt, on the steps of the old Madison Public Library. They both were 15 and both carrying huge stacks of books. On their first date, they saw Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night” at the Majestic Theater in downtown Madison. Peter and Trudi were best friends and married for 53 years, living first in San Francisco, then in New York City. They shared an unstuffy love of books, movies, art, and ideas of all kinds. The two of them returned to Madison where their beloved daughter, Miranda, was born. Peter cherished the small celebrations and the fun of family life—car trips to Maine and New York City, summer camping at Point Beach on Lake Michigan, picnics, little family rituals. Hundreds of his beautiful photos and drawings keep these times alive for his family. Peter spent most of his adult life in Madison, where he used his gift for writing, and his photographic expertise to build a career in publishing and Credit Union magazines. He enjoyed his work, and made many lifelong friends. People who knew him well, knew that he was as proud of having driven a Madison cab in his youthful days, as he was of having had a corner office with a view.

Peter was a voracious reader with wide-ranging interests, and was a true advocate for public libraries—weekly bringing home stacks of books. Peter had a lively mind, his family and friends loved talking with him. His family remembers him as a skipper of stones, a bicycle rider who loved wolves, who taught his daughter about physics and how to drive and let her stay up too late building a block structure with him that was mostly staircases when she was 5. We miss him more than we can say.

He leaves behind his wife, Trudi, who thinks 53 years of conversation with him was not nearly enough; his daughter, Miranda; and his brother, Jurgen (Jean).

Respecting his wishes there will be a private service. In lieu of flowers, take a bike ride, or walk up Frederick’s Hill and look out at the view. If you want to make a donation, help support the local arts—take in a play, attend a local music event, buy a book from a bookstore, support the public library. And he would say, take care of each other.

Please share your memories at

Cress Funeral and Cremation Service

3610 Speedway Road, Madison

(608) 238-3434

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