Laura Yuen
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They're going to sing for Pat. They're going to jam for Pat. This time, to honor his life.

Pat Mackin's old bandmates and musician friends came together for benefits over the years, raising money for the injured saxophonist's care. When they take the stage this month at the Minnesota Music Cafe in St. Paul — the last venue he ever played before a devastating car crash — it'll be simply to celebrate the man he was.

In December 2014, Mackin was driving home from that gig when a drunk driver who was texting her boyfriend broadsided his car at 68 mph on Snelling Avenue. The driver, Alexandria Clark, served six months in the workhouse. The crash left Mackin with a ruptured diaphragm, broken neck, lacerated liver and dissected aorta. A stroke during one of Mackin's many surgeries made sure he would never walk or talk again, let alone play music.

"He didn't die, but she killed him," said Mackin's wife, Jeanine Brudenell, who was by his side caring for him the past eight years. "His life ended. I didn't realize that for a long time. I thought, 'He's going to recover.' I never imagined he'd never play again. I never realized he would not be able to speak again."

Mackin fought every day since the crash, so even though he was in hospice care, it was still a shock to Brudenell when he took his last breath Sept. 9 after a persistent urinary tract infection that first surfaced in July. After several rounds of antibiotics and recurrences, he made it clear he did not want to be hospitalized or have any life-saving measures.

"It was hard, but I understood why," Brudenell said. "I felt, 'I'm glad he's taking this decision away from me.' "

Until then, "Pat never gave up," said his friend, veteran Twin Cities musician Maurice Jacox. "Some people say that was the problem. He tried as hard as he could. It was hard on his body, and hard on his mind, too."

Pat Mackin and Jeanine Brudenell on one of their many climbing adventures together.
Pat Mackin and Jeanine Brudenell on one of their many climbing adventures together.

Provided by Jeanine Brudenell

Before the injuries, Mackin was an avid rock climber, scaling Devil's Tower in Wyoming well over 100 times. One of his first dates with Brudenell was taking her out to the bluffs in Red Wing. She had never heard of rock climbing. All of a sudden, he was putting a harness on her and tying rope.

One of the first times she ever saw him was on a ski trip to Lutsen. Mackin had a gig there. "I remember seeing him on stage and thinking, 'I'm going to be with that guy,' " she says, laughing about her premonition.

Brudenell, now a retired Minneapolis cop, couldn't believe that Mackin was 16 years older than her because he was so fit. She demanded to see his driver's license — yep, she carded him — to see his birth date for herself.

It was his formidable strength that prevented him from dying on the night of the crash, said Jacox, who frequently visited Mackin in the hospital and later took him for walks in his wheelchair at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Jacox witnessed just how much his friend desired to move and play the saxophone once again.

Pat Mackin played saxophone for all sorts of bands, from jazz and R&B to funk and country.
Pat Mackin played saxophone for all sorts of bands, from jazz and R&B to funk and country.

Provided by Jeanine Brudenell

"Being the Type A person he was, he was trying to push the envelope," he said. "It was never enough. He would push harder, do well, and then one day later would try to get out of the wheelchair and would face-plant, and that would set him back."

In Mackin he saw someone so stubborn, greeting each day with a will "to make his existence palatable and endurable," Jacox says. "He's my idea of a true hero."

Brudenell says she's no longer angry about Clark's sentencing. She received inpatient treatment during her probation. Brudenell says she hopes Clark got her life back on track.

After the pandemic hit, Brudenell and Mackin uprooted themselves from Minneapolis and moved out west, where milder winters meant he didn't have to be trapped indoors. They built a house in Sahuarita, Ariz., "where he could be outside and have the mountain view he always wanted," Brudenell wrote in a tribute to him on Facebook. "Pat was able to see this view as he left this world. He was calm and at peace." Mackin was 69.

Shortly before his passing, Brudenell asked him about his end of life.

Do you want to be cremated?

He said yes.

Do you want me to spread your ashes somewhere, or do you want to be wait and be buried with me?

He pointed to her.

"I assumed he wanted a musical celebration for his life. I asked him if that's what he wanted," Brudenell said. "He said yes."

If you go

Pat Mackin's celebration of life will be held 4 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Minnesota Music Cafe, 449 Payne Av., St. Paul. Jaybee and the Routine, the band Mackin was playing with the night of the crash, will perform, along with many others.

Donations in memory of Mackin can be made to the Courage Kenny ABLE program through the Allina Health Foundation at https://bit.ly/3TluOtP.