Pat Loud, the matriarch of the Santa Barbara family featured in An American Family, the groundbreaking PBS docu-series that introduced reality TV to America, has died at 94. The 1973 series also gave America one of its first important glimpses at a real live out-and-proud gay person, Pat’s son Lance Loud. Lance came out as gay to Pat in the middle of the series. He died of complications related to HIV in 2001.
This video tribute to Pat Loud was shared by the family on Sunday.
The full statement from the Loud family:
With inconsolable sorrow, we are sad to share the news with friends and family that on Sunday January 10 at 1:55pm PT, Pat Loud passed away peacefully in her sleep of natural causes. She was snuggled up safe in her comfy home, attended by loving children Michele, Delilah, Kevin and Grant.
Born in Eugene, Oregon, Patricia was the beloved daughter of Thomas Osmond and Myrle Lill Russell, who – the story goes – were also responsible for introducing one Alanson Robert Loud to a certain B. Bertha Carberry, also of Eugene. That marriage later produced three children including Pat’s future husband, William Carberry Loud. Cool, huh?
After graduating from Stanford University in 1948 where she pursued her lifelong interests in World History and English Literature, she returned to her hometown where she met and fell in love with Bill Loud. They married in Mexico City, and first son – Alanson “Lance” Russell Loud – was born in June 1951.
Four more children, a move to Santa Barbara, and a famously televised divorce later, Pat’s brilliant second act was only getting started. A flat on New York’s Upper East Side and a new career in the book biz was followed by a relocation to England’s favorite Roman spa town Bath in the 1980s. But wherever she was, an invitation to her table meant an unforgettable evening of great food, generous drinks and convivial company.
When eldest son Lance was diagnosed as HIV+, she returned to Los Angeles, where she became an indefatigable advocate for his health through the 1990s.
Pat Loud was a fierce, inflexible, forthright matriarch and loyal champion of outsiders and iconoclasts. Her door was never locked and there was always room at her table. Never one for regrets or reflection, she moved forward in life with enthusiasm and courage. A letter from her often closed simply, “Excelsior!”
She loved books, the NYT paper and crossword, legends of the Knights Templar, Billie Holiday, Kurt Weil, Harry Nilsson, and of course, The Mumps.
Lance passed away from complications due to Hepatitis C in 2001. Bill Loud died in 2018, also of natural causes, after spending the previous 17 years in the house he shared with Pat. Long story. Having grown up through the Depression and WW II, Bill and Pat were both unique, vibrant, creative, and independent people. Anyone who knew them understands that Lance did not just magically appear out of nowhere. Pat is survived by Kevin Robert, Grant Randolph, Delilah Ann and Michele Summers Loud. She was 94.
In lieu of flowers, the family is grateful for any donations to be made in her name to The Rescue Train at therescuetrain.org.
But…you know what she’d really like? Throw something delicious in the oven and let the aroma fill the house. At the stroke of 5pm, gather friends and family around a tray of savory treats. Fill a glass with ice and – if you really want to do it right – everyone take one, VERY LARGE vodka. Maybe (definitely) two. Then sit down to dinner at a crowded table. Tell stories, put music on, laugh, and make a lot of noise. Have seconds, clean plates. And love each other.
She’d love that.
Patricia Claire Russell Loud 10/04/26 – 01/10/21