Patricia H. Burch, a homemaker and Loyola Blakefield high school benefactress, died Nov. 30 of Alzheimer's disease at the Edenwald retirement community. She was 89.
"I had met Pat several times in Ocean City, and she had a very lovely, lovely family," said J. Joseph Curran Jr., former Maryland attorney general. "She was the mother of a wonderful family, and that's a legacy that she could always be proud of."
"Pat was an extraordinary woman who had a wonderful and good life," said the Rev. John M. Dennis of Indianapolis, former head of Loyola Blakefield. "She also had been the doting matriarch to her family. She was devoted to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."
The daughter of Edwin Stanislaus Howe, an American Oil Co. executive, and Catherine Veronica Howe, a homemaker, the former Mary Patricia Howe was born in Baltimore and raised on Windsor Mill Road.
Mrs. Burch attended St. Cecelia's parochial school and graduated in 1942 from Western High School. She received a full academic scholarship to the University of Maryland, College Park and after two years, left college and went to work at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where she checked tanks.
After World War II, she was working as a receptionist for a small law firm in Baltimore when she met and fell in love with Francis Boucher "Bill" Burch, a young Yale Law School graduate, in 1946. They married the next year.
"Mom devoted most of her life to her husband and children, and often said her children were her greatest wealth," said a daughter, Constance B. "Connie" McGrain of Towson.
Mr. Burch, who died in 1987, served as Maryland attorney general from 1966 to 1978.
"She was Dad's greatest fan and asset. While Dad was the political officeholder, friends and family knew that it was Mom who was the force behind his success," Ms. McGrain said.
"She was a great conversationalist and had a knack for making people feel at ease. She was gracious and had a beautiful smile, a remarkable ability to remember names and a wonderful sense of style, all of which made for the perfect counterpart to our dad," Ms. McGrain said.
"She was a very elegant, charming and engaging woman. I loved her," said Father Dennis, who is now president of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.
"I first developed a relationship with Pat when I was at Blakefield, and she became a benefactor when we were building Knott Hall. She became personally involved," said Father Dennis. "And as a past parent, she supported her children's alma mater."
The center of Mrs. Burch's life was her Chancery Road home, where she and her husband, both inveterate Baltimore Colts fans, would host large groups of family and friends before and after games.
"Folks would park at our house and walk to Memorial Stadium and then return and warm up by the fire," Ms. McGrain recalled.
Mrs. Burch looked forward to Christmas each year, family members said.
"Mom loved the holidays, especially Christmas. Family and friends gathered every Christmas Eve for decades to sing carols and feast on family favorites like crab dip, giant steamed shrimp, biscuits with Smithfield ham, and strawberries with powdered sugar," said Ms. McGrain. "She also loved singing Christmas carols around the tree."
She spent summers in Ocean City for more than 50 years, where she enjoyed making lunch for the lifeguard on her beach every day and sitting on her porch reading or doing The New York Times crossword puzzle.
Mrs. Burch and her husband took frequent cruises to the Caribbean and traveled throughout the United States. While he compiled photographic records of their trips, she "kept copious notes of their journeys," Ms. McGrain said.
She was a longtime communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
"When her son R. Stuart Burch died in 2002, she held her head up high," said Father Dennis. "Her great faith and family were always her anchors."
A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Dec. 16 at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Burch is survived by three sons, Francis B. Burch Jr. of Owings Mills, Richard C. Burch of Ruxton and E. Howe Burch of Lutherville; two other daughters, Catherine B. Jenkins of Hunt Valley and Patricia B. Farrell of Annapolis; a brother, John N. Howe of Timonium; two sisters, Janet E. Howe of Skillman, N.J., and C. Claire Knobel of Southampton, N.Y.; 25 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.