PALMETTO -- Jill Mullins had notes when she walked to the stage in the Palmetto High School auditorium at 3 p.m. Thursday to tell 600 people, a near-capacity crowd, all about her late husband, Patrick.
But, like the Lakewood Ranch High educator she is, and perhaps like the Palmetto High educator her husband was, Jill Mullins felt the need to first critique the previous speakers, handing out praise to them one-by-one for hitting the mark about her husband.
"First, Palmetto High Principal Willie Clark spoke accurately that Pat would indeed gather data about the library and enthusiastic explain to him that a well-stocked library, along with a competent media specialist, correlates directly to a school's overall academic achievement level." Mullins said.
"And my husband's dear high school friend, Elson Brown, spoke the truth about Pat's love of the trumpet and how music was his life," Mullins added. "He loved the jazz masters."
"And Barbara Harvey, well, she gave Pat his first job and she was always there and is still always there."
Through her grief, Jill Mullins never stopped being a teacher.
It was easy, perhaps, to see why this couple was perfect for each other.
The hourlong Celebration of Life ceremony for Mullins, 52, whose body was discovered Tuesday after he went missing on a short boating trip Jan. 27, was elegant and simple, centerpieced by a sideshow of photographs of Mullins through the ages, lovingly put together by his niece, Palmetto High teacher Kate Perri.
Jill Mullins and her brother, Skip Miller, were the only family members who spoke Thursday although Mullins' sons, Miles and Mason, were also present as well as other family members.
The exact cause of Mullins' death is inconclusive and a ruling is pending after
further tests, according to the Manatee County medical examiner's office.
Students Lee Blair, Jordan Giveans , Josh Laguerre, Katie Zanders, Kristie Teachy and Morgan Parker shared their favorite "Pat Mullins" stories.
Blair laughed about Mullins' "quirky knowledge." Jordan swore that Mullins had a multitude of eyeballs and could spot cell phones in the library even when carefully hidden. She will always remember Mullins' telling her, "Plan a future."
Laguerre told the crowd that Mullins convinced him he could succeed academically and he began to believe it himself.
Zanders cried as she related how Mullins kept her chugging along when she almost gave up hope of getting college scholarship money. When it finally came, Mullins jumped in the air and celebrated.
Teachy recalled how Mullins never read the back of microwave food to see how long it was supposed to cook, often eating frozen potatoes, but not caring.
Parkern said Mullins was a father figure to her who encouraged her to go to college.
After speaking, she buried her head in the stage curtains and cried.
Jill Mullins' own words, when she used her notes, were simple, honest and unforgettable.
"Pat used to sleep in a comfy chair when he came home from school and later, after he awoke from his nap, he would talk to me about all of you," Jill Mullins said. "He loved PHS and his media aides. He was a good man. He would often say to me in a little voice, 'I hope it's OK because I paid for so-and-so to take the ACT exam.' Or he would say, 'You might find something on our credit card bill this month. It's legit. Someone needed to pay for registration and there wasn't time.' I would always say, 'Yes, it's OK.' I just wish Pat were here to see how many of you came."
Jill Mullins wept in her seat as the 15-member Palmetto Varsity Choir, in their black concert attire, beautifully sang "Inscription of Hope," which was one of Patrick Mullins' favorite pieces,
The Palmetto High Orchestra, led by conductor Jayne Jurek, played "Slumber Song."
Trumpet players Kevin Teachey, Dustin Key and Nathaniel Miller honored Mullins' passion for the trumpet by playing "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful."
A memorial service for Mullins will be held 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, at Braden River United Methodist Church, 5858 44th Avenue East.