Sunday, May 27, 2001

Prize Possessions

Ostriches omnipresent for Newport teacher

By Marsie Hall Newbold
Enquirer contributor

        Who: Dennis Pattinson, 35, of Newport, a science teacher at Holmes Junior High School who is obsessed with ostriches.

        On display: Nearly 200 representations of the large, flightless birds.

        Where: Perched throughout Mr. Pattinson's spacious apartment. There are stuffed animal ostriches sitting on shelves, ostrich magnets on the refrigerator and ostrich artwork (including an original model sheet from Walt Disney's Fantasia) on the walls. His collection also includes ostriches made of pewter, ceramic, blown glass and wood.

        Merry Christmas: “I started collecting ostriches about 15 years ago,” Mr. Pattinson explains. “It was Christmas time and my grandmother Evelyn Betz (formerly of Price Hill) asked what my favorite animal was.”

        “Since then, she has given me at least 25% of my collection,” he says. “But now it's to the point where everybody gives me ostriches. It has become a real challenge for my family and friends to find ones I don't already have.”

        Struthio camelus: Even Mr. Pattinson's students have gotten into the act.

        Earlier this year, his friend and colleague, art teacher Janet Martin-Rush put a photo of him on her classroom's bulletin board and wrote next to it: “Would you trust this man with your ostrich?”

        “They really picked up on it,” he laughs. “It's been a lot of fun.”

        It wouldn't be right: Mr. Pattinson has seen the real thing at zoos and farms, but refuses to eat ostrich.

        “I know it's supposed to be low in fat and everything,” he says grimacing, “But really, it would be like eating one of my own children.”

        The one that got away: Currently, Mr. Pattinson's favorite ostriches are a small handcrafted statue of an ostrich peeking up between its legs and a squirt gun ostrich that shoots water out of its mouth. But there is one that has eluded him. It is a large metal sculpture that he spotted at Summerfair last year. It was about 7 feet high and made out of car fenders and backhoes.

        Wishful thinking: “It was a fabulous piece,” he says. “But, I couldn't afford to buy it. The next day when I went back take a photo, it was gone.”

        “I just wonder who bought it,” he says. “Maybe they will invite me over to visit it.”



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