Patrick Stockstill, 57; achieved his dream, became official historian of Academy Awards
Patrick E. Stockstill, whose teenage mastery of Oscar trivia led him to become the historian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and to create a searchable online database of nominees and winners, has died. He was 57.
Stockstill, who had suffered from heart disease for years, died May 24 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications following a heart, liver and kidney transplant, said his wife, Valorie.
“When he came to us, he was a man with extraordinary knowledge of the history of the Academy Awards. He leaves us with that history available to us and the rest of the world,” Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy, told The Times on Thursday.
At 14, Stockstill began tracking Oscar nominees and winners by writing on index cards. By the time he joined the academy’s Margaret Herrick Library in 1982, he had amassed more than 10,000 cards.
His trove of Oscar minutiae moved the library to buy its first computer, said Linda Mehr, the library’s director.
“Patrick was a wonderful, dedicated librarian, a stickler for detail and accuracy,” Mehr said. “He also had a great sense of humor and never spoke an unkind word.”
A year after being hired as an assistant librarian, Stockstill was named academy historian.
For about two decades, Stockstill had a backstage pass to the annual Academy Awards ceremony as keeper of the statuettes, guarding them and handing them to presenters.
“I like being in the middle of the action,” Stockstill told Los Angeles magazine in 1988 of his Oscar-night role. “I love the excitement.”
Comedian Robin Williams once treated him to a private performance during an Oscar rehearsal by carrying on a hilarious conversation with a table full of statuettes, the magazine reported.
It was the rare archivist’s job that had “Mission Impossible” overtones.
The night before Oscar nominations were announced, Stockstill and his team would be locked inside academy headquarters, forfeiting phone and e-mail access. The names of the nominees would then be revealed to them, and the group would go to work pulling together facts and figures.
“Suddenly, in the middle of the night, without access to the library, he would come up with tidbits like ‘This is the third time a left-handed Bulgarian has been nominated in this category,’ ” Davis said. “It was very useful to have the historian that night.”
In addition to the public database at www.oscars.org, Stockstill developed an in-house database that tries to document the whereabouts of the more than 2,500 Oscars awarded to date.
Since 1989, he also had overseen the administration of several Academy Awards categories, including documentary, short film, music and foreign-language.
Patrick Eugene Stockstill was born Nov. 22, 1949, in Washington, D.C. He was the son of Michael, who worked for Western Union, and Marjorie Stockstill. He grew up in Virginia and New Jersey.
As a child, Stockstill fell in love with the movies, especially “Mary Poppins” (1964). It remained a favorite even after “he became an expert in obscure Yugoslavian films from the 1930s,” Davis said.
When Stockstill heard the academy had a library, he vowed to work there.
“It’s the one job in the world that I wanted to get,” Stockstill told the Associated Press last year.
After four years in the Navy, Stockstill attended Ohio’s Wittenberg University and received a bachelor’s degree in music in 1976.
While working on a master’s in library science at the University of Michigan, he created a program that would emphasize film research. He earned his degree in 1981.
He soon moved to Los Angeles and was hired by the academy after distinguishing himself as a library volunteer.
While attending Harvest Bible University in Los Angeles, Stockstill met his future wife. Six days after their first date, he proposed in front of their character-development class. They were married in 2000.
In addition to his wife, Valorie of Sylmar, Stockstill is survived by his parents and brother Michael, all of Newark, N.J.