The dedication of a new 20-mile section of U.S. 119 as the "Paul E. Patton Highway" was held in Patton's hometown of Pikeville, where he has enjoyed retirement since Fletcher succeeded him as governor in 2004.
The scene off a bridge along the highway, amid a backdrop of rolling hills covered in autumn leaves, had a touch of irony. Just three years ago, Fletcher became Kentucky's first Republican governor in more than 30 years on a promise to "clean up the mess in Frankfort," following a sex scandal involving Patton.
Fletcher's own term has been marked by an investigation of his administration's hiring practices. He was charged in May with alleged conspiracy, official misconduct and political discrimination, but the charges were dropped in August as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
The two appeared at ease on Monday, sitting side-by-side and later stepping up to the microphone to exchange compliments over their accomplishments in office.
"Paul Patton was elected by the people of Kentucky to serve as their governor for two successive terms and diligently worked to improve the quality of life for the people of Pikeville and Pike County," Fletcher said.
He credited Patton for sparking reforms in Kentucky's economy, higher education and, of course, making construction of the $400 million highway a top priority.
Fletcher added that he had a greater appreciation for Patton once he began his own term as governor.
"Regardless of party affiliation, there's a special kindredship between those who have served as governor," he said.
Patton, whose tearful confession of the affair had marked him as a political pariah among Democrats and Republicans, thanked Fletcher for the honor.
"What I really wanted was a bridge. ... This was the only thing that was left," he quipped with the crowd legislators, local officials and residents.
After the ceremony, Patton said he and Fletcher had a cordial relationship and no tension.
"Once people have held that job, you rise above the politics. You realize their struggles," Patton said.
While Fletcher wasn't obligated to attend the dedication ceremony, it was a smart move as governor and a candidate seeking re-election, said Kendra Stewart, a political scientist at Eastern Kentucky University.
To not show up "would be insulting to the people down there, and those are important constituents," she said. "You want to appear to rise above the fray of politics."
State Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, who attended the ceremony, said it was simply the right thing to do.
"It's a very bipartisan act to give credit where credit's due."