Patti Weber’s life was made for a Hollywood action film of a globe-trotting CIA officer.
For more than 30 years, the Minnesota native lived the real-life version, trekking across the world in undercover covert operations, donning disguises to recruit foreign spies to give up valuable information on issues such as terrorism to help inform national policymakers. When her cover was blown, she became a CIA executive before retiring to Minnesota, where she led the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.
“She had a life and career that most people couldn’t even dream of,” said Deborah Pierce of Ramsey, a friend and a retired FBI special agent.
Weber, 75, of Minneapolis, died Aug. 20 of natural causes.
Born Patricia Ann Healey, she grew up in Golden Valley and graduated from St. Margaret’s Academy in Minneapolis in 1961. At the University of Minnesota, she attended a job fair where she submitted an application to the U.S. Foreign Service. After an interview in Washington, the State Department asked her to work as a code clerk in Paris.
“Paris, Texas, or Paris, France?” she asked.
She dropped out of college and took the overseas job translating encrypted messages for U.S. embassies and the State Department before being transferred to a job in Thailand. There she fell in love with a CIA agent, Ken Weber. The couple married, but only three years later, he died from a heart attack on a plane while on a covert assignment.
Afterward, the CIA reached out to Patti with a job offer to work in the National Clandestine Service, the undercover arm of the CIA. She spent the next 30 years traveling the world to develop foreign spies, working days as a secretary and nights in the secret world of intelligence work. It was no easy task. In China, Weber had to persuade people to give her access to certain places. Knowing the Chinese revered elders, she dyed her hair gray and said, “I’m a little old auntie,” with a giggle. It worked.
“She was basically trying to get people to give up secrets about their countries,” Pierce said.
When her cover was blown, Weber moved into management, including chief of policy overseeing 200 CIA employees in D.C. She retired in 2004, receiving the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal — the highest award given to a CIA officer — and the U.S. Secret Service Director’s Recognition Award, which is rarely given to a non-Secret Service employee.
“She was a great American hero,” said Ann Healey-Allen of Chanhassen, her niece. “She did a lot to advance democracy around the world and ensure safety of Americans.”
Weber’s work wasn’t over. She joined the board at the Woman’s Club, serving as its president from 2012 to 2015. There she met Pierce, who shared a unique bond over top-secret work. In 2010, they launched a public speaking business, Pierce-Weber Partnership, meeting with more than 140 groups as they discussed working in the male-dominated, covert world of the FBI and CIA — at least the unclassified parts — as they bantered back and forth over who had the more dangerous job.
“She said ‘I was trained to lie, cheat and steal.’ I said I was trained to lock people up who lie, cheat and steal,” Pierce said. “Our whole premise was spy vs. spy.”
They also taught women about personal safety and identity theft. Outgoing and generous, Weber volunteered and mentored women. When she wasn’t working, she loved art, playing dominoes or bridge and drinking scotch or Irish whiskey — and sharing her extraordinary CIA stories.
“Some of them are even true,” Pierce quipped.
Weber is survived by her brothers, John Healey of Minneapolis, Thomas Healey of Tonka Bay and Michael Healey of Bloomington. Services have been held.