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Bharati S. Parekh, businesswoman and artist, dies

As a child, Bharati S. Parekh met world leaders and later worked with Synthetic & Art Silk Mills' Research Ass

Bharati S. Parekh, a Baltimore businesswoman, artist and professor, died of ovarian cancer Dec. 2 at Sinai Hospital's Seasons Hospice. She was 70 and a resident of the Towers at Harbor Court.

"She was thoughtful, strong and full of class and dignity," said Lynn E. Abeshouse, a Baltimore real estate executive and a member of the board of Sinai Hospital. "And when she spoke, they were always words of wisdom based on her life's experiences."

"She was a special individual who touched the hearts of a lot of people," said Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of LifeBridge Health.

"She was an extremely kind and spiritual person who left an indelible mark on our cancer unit. She had a kind and very special way about her," said Mr. Meltzer. "Even as she faced the challenges of her illness, she was continually upbeat. She really was a unique and special person."

The daughter of Dayabhai Chotabhai Patel, CEO of Premier Automobiles Ltd., a leading Indian auto maker, and Savitaben Patel, a homemaker, Bharati Patel was born in New Delhi, India, and was 1961 graduate of St. Thomas High School, also in New Delhi.

"Because of her father's business and political connections, she was able during her childhood to meet global leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader," said her son-in-law, Guy E. Flynn of Baltimore.

After earning a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1964 from St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, she traveled to Columbia, Mo., where she earned a double master's degree in sociology and anthropology from the University of Missouri — all before she was 20 years old.

She then returned to Mumbai and worked as an executive with the Synthetic & Art Silk Mills' Research Association, an Indian textiles cooperative.

In 1972, she married Dr. Satish B. Parekh, a Baltimore-Washington businessman, and settled into a home in the Watergate complex in Washington, where she "befriended neighbors such as Nancy Kissinger, wife of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and hosted dinner parties for visitors such as Ravi Shankar, the noted Indian sitar musician," her son-in-law said.

A stylish woman, Ms. Parekh enjoyed dressing in saris when going out for dinner and social events.

Ms. Parekh began her art studies in the early 1970s under the mentorship of modernist Prabhakar Kolte, who encouraged her to follow her "instincts of spontaneity in the creative process," said Mr. Flynn.

In 1973, Ms. Parekh and her husband moved to Baltimore and settled in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood. In 1980, she began her teaching career as an associate professor at Coppin State University and Baltimore City Community College, where she taught cultural anthropology and sociology.

She also taught at the Jessup Correctional Institution and enjoyed mentoring female inmates while teaching courses.

Ms. Parekh ended her teaching career in 1999.

In the mid-1980s, she established a private company, BNP International Inc. — the letters stood for Bharati and her two daughters, Nupur and Payal. The import-export business specialized in sending medical diagnostic equipment to India. It closed several years ago.

In recent years, Ms. Parekh turned her attention to art and philanthropy and, after being diagnosed in 2005 with ovarian cancer, "she came to realize the therapeutic value of art — and the healing power of sharing it with others," said Mr. Flynn.

"I was honored to have a close relationship with her," said Ms. Abeshouse. "She was a remarkable lady, and as she struggled with cancer — which she did with great courage — she maintained a positive approach to life."

She began hosting art exhibitions, some featuring her own works, executed while she was undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Her work was represented at Maryland Art Place, Gallery ID8 in Fells Point, the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, the Clark Priftis Art Gallery at Harbor East and the John Yuhanick Associates Inc. offices, as well as in private collections.

Ms. Parekh often donated proceeds of her art sales to nonprofits such as the Ron Brown Scholar Program in Washington, Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore and Sinai Hospital's Gynecologic Oncology Patient Support Fund, also in Baltimore.

"I have one of her paintings in my office. … It is an oil and appears to be the sun, which speaks to her personality whenever I look at it," said Mr. Meltzer. "Sunshine was her, and that described her life."

In discussing the inspiration for her work, Ms. Parekh once said her art was "an expression on canvas — a raga of colors, forms and textures — reflecting a woman's personal journey and transition, from growing up in a country laden with a visual overload of pigment, ritual and people [to] creating a new and permanent home in the United States."

Services were private.

Ms. Parekh is survived by her daughters, Nupur Parekh Flynn of Baltimore and Payal Satish Parekh of New York; two sisters, Lila Patel of Calcutta, India, and Nalini Patel of Baroda, India; and many cousins, nieces and nephews. Her marriage ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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