Long-time Northeast resident Patrick (Pat) Rainville died Feb. 15 of lung cancer, at age 73.
Rainville attended Edison High School, graduating in 1951. His sister-in-law, Alice Rainville, said she remembers that when she came into the family, Pat was a teenager; the family included “a lot of boys.” He was the quiet one, the youngest of eight children, and “very beloved by his family.”
Rainville said Pat grew up in the golden days of Northeast. “They lived in an area of people who were immigrants, and the family continued to serve the immigrant population of Minneapolis. The churches, schools, parks and jobs were just bubbling along. It was a strong community; people knew everybody in all the houses. I think Pat had more nieces and nephews than anybody else you could have found on the East Side.”
Pat, like his brothers, was an athlete at Edison High. He was a fullback on the football team and a catcher on the baseball team. The school had marvelous coaches, she added; “Some of their names are still sacred in Northeast.”
She said Pat will be remembered for his community activism. “He was very helpful; he did many things for the community and didn’t make any noise about it. He was always proud of Northeast.”
He was one of a group of neighbors “who turned back the federal government’s freeway; they were pretty strong, with a soft touch,” she said. (In the 1970s, the federal government proposed building the I-335 freeway, which would have fragmented Northeast neighborhoods. A group of residents that included Rainville, Jeannette May and Mary Jane Partyka fought the plan and were successful in getting it stopped.
Partyka said that Pat Rainville “left a legacy not only to his family but to so many others of caring, planning, sharing and doing what was best for all.” Stopping the freeway, she added, had taken years of meetings and commitment. The freeway would have been run through the St. Anthony West, St. Anthony East and Beltrami neighborhoods. She, Rainville, and other neighbors met with the Minneapolis City Council, as well as state and federal officials. Because of the joint effort the freeway was stopped, she said, adding that Northeast was the first community in the United States that had ever stopped an interstate highway project.
Pat’s brother Edward (Ed) Rainville Sr. said Pat underwent a cancer operation last summer, from which he never fully recovered. Even so, he added, he wasn’t expecting him to die so soon. “He was born on March 17; in my heart, I never thought that he’d go before then.”
Pat and Ed were two of the three brothers (the third was Richard, Alice Rainville’s husband) who owned and ran the Rainville Brothers Funeral Chapel. Patrick left the business to work as a foreman for the Stevens-Lee Company, where he worked for 36 years until he retired. The company, Ed said, made milk dispensing machines.
Ed described his brother as “a nice guy,” adding, “I loved him very much.”
Pat’s son, Michael Rainville, said that his father attended Edison when the school was a dominant force in Northeast. After graduating, “He chose to stay in Northeast at a time when many others were leaving, and make it better. He was really a big part of Northeast; he was the founder of St. Anthony West Neighborhood Organization (STAWNO) and was president for 14 years.” (Michael Rainville, who lives in St. Anthony West, is now STAWNO’s president.)
Pat was a neighborhood volunteer for STAWNO for 22 years; he chaired the committee which oversaw the building of Boom Island Park and helped develop a policy to build more owner-occupied housing in Northeast.
Michael said his father retired in 1993; he and his wife Louise traveled between their winter home in Arizona and summer home in Wisconsin. “He’d stop off in Northeast and tell us how to fix things in the neighborhoods,” Michael said.
His father will be remembered, he said, for “how well he got along with everybody, even if they didn’t agree with him. He was more of a diplomat than I’ll ever be. He was proud of his community and proud to say he lived in Northeast Minneapolis at a time when people made fun of you for saying it. He passed that pride around. Now I see his hard work paying off, and a lot of people benefiting from it.”
In addition to Michael and Edward, Pat Rainville is survived by his wife Louise, to whom he was married for 55 years; his sons Thomas and Patrick Jr. and grandson Michael Jr.