Meet the Times-Register reporter

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Willis Patenaude is the new reporter for the Times-Register. He’s pictured with wife Alison and son Brady.

Hailing from the Empire State, Willis Patenaude was born and raised in the land of baseball’s birth, where the Statue of Liberty stands free, the home of the Yankee cap that Jay-Z made famous and where 9/11 shocked and shook the national consciousness—in the upstate region that more mirrors northeast Iowa than it does the New York portrayed in Hollywood. From humble beginnings and small town roots, Willis grew up with two younger brothers in the days before social media and cell phones pushed thumb dexterity to its limits and when Duck Hunt was 8-bit magic in a cartridge. With a farmer for a father and a waitress for a mother, Willis learned valuable life lessons at an early age, mostly shrouded in cynicism with a hint of realistic pessimism, like sarcasm is a poor substitute for hard work and character. 

As a student at Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School, the home of the Patriots because of the region’s storied history during the American Revolution, it was often his outspoken nature, not his aptitude that led to difficulties, but Willis survived the slog of lockers, class bells and teenage drama. After high school, Willis went on to attend the State University of New York, College at Cobleskill, graduating in 2005. He then attended the State University of New York, College at Oneonta, in 2010, with a bachelors degree in political science and mass communication. It was at this point, in 2011, that fate or a misguided decision brought him to the corn-covered confines of Iowa in search of opportunity, new beginnings and fulfillment. 

The early years weren't easy, riddled with trials, tribulations and travails, but Willis endured and in 2014 was blessed with the greatest gift, a son named Brady, after Tom Brady, who apparently is revered on the same level as Jesus in the Patenaude household. In 2015, Willis began attending Iowa State University and eventually obtained a master’s degree in political science in 2018. A published political scientist, Willis rejects political conversations because, as he stated, “no one listens anyway.” After a tumultuous few years, Willis soon found his diamond in the rough, who easily convinced him to relocate to Elkader, where he has become a morning fixture at the Fast Trak, gained notoriety as the “Subway Twitter Guy!” and progressed from freelance work to full-time reporter for the newly minted and merged Times-Register. 

In the intervening years, Willis never lost his love for writing or reading, both hobbies in his spare time. As are pretending to be Tom Watson on the golf course, LEGOs, adult coloring books, Bob Ross on YouTube, being the world’s greatest armchair football coach and some backyard Army game called “Hamburger Hill” with his son Brady. He’s also expecting another son—the child will be named Bennett, after the Bennett family from Netflix’s show The Ranch—with new wife and Central English teacher Alison, who Willis admits he somehow managed to charm, despite an undeniable lack of charisma. She is the Bonnie to his Clyde on their frequent trips to the Dollar General, the town hot spot.

Asked how he liked Elkader, Willis responded, “Elkader is like the snow-globe version of my hometown. Romanticized, modeled and built like a John Falter painting. There are days I feel like I’m Truman in the Truman Show.” He also spoke about how welcoming, genuine and generous the people of Elkader really are, and before COVID-19 started the rapture, was fond of exploring main street, walking the Turkey River and participating in community events, especially Brownie Bash. 

The new opportunity is a welcome change, but also demanding, and Willis mentioned he only hopes to represent the paper and the town in a positive, respectable manner, worthy of its generosity and pleasant appeal. “I’m very fond of Elkader,” Willis said. “I’ve lived in Iowa since 2011 and it wasn’t until I moved to Elkader that I finally felt like I belonged. I pray I don’t let the paper or the community down.”

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