Patty Rouse, widow of Columbia founder, dies

Patricia "Patty" Traugott Rouse, the wife of Columbia's founder and herself a beloved fixture in the community, has died, according to officials at Enterprise Community Partners, the organization she and James Rouse started three decades ago.

Rouse died Monday, March 5 ofNon-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to her official obituary. She was 85 and had struggled withAlzheimer's diseasefor a decade.

She was raised in Norfolk, Va., graduated from that Sweet Briar College in 1948 with a degree in British history, and was working toward a graduate degree in urban studies at Old Dominion University when she met James Rouse.

That was 1973, six years after the founding of his planned community. She soon left school, married Rouse and moved to Columbia. Those who knew her in the decades after that recalled her continued dedication, both in her commitment to the community and her support for the arts.

"I think she was a special person. She was a great lady and a good friend," said Padraic Kennedy, Columbia Association's first president and a longtime next-door neighbor to the Rouses in Wilde Lake. "She certainly was very loyal and supportive in all of Jim's activities, both in Columbia and around the country."

Patricia and James Rouse founded what was then called The Enterprise Foundation in 1982, setting up a nonprofit that focused on building affordable homes for low-income families.

James Rouse died in 1996 at 81.

Patricia Rouse was a vice president, secretary and lifetime member of Enterprise's board of trustees, and had also served as a secretary and member of the board of directors for its for-profit subsidiary, Enterprise Community Investment Inc. She was involved with numerous local and national boards, committees and organizations.

Terri Ludwig, Enterprise's president and CEO, noted in a statement that it has been 30 years since the foundation's founding.

"We are forever indebted to Patty, our visionary co-founder, for her unwavering commitment and the groundbreaking legacy she has left the affordable housing and community development industry," Ludwig said.

Patricia Rouse was always seen by James Rouse's side at local events, but was reticent to speak about Columbia after her husband's death, according to Barbara Kellner, manager of the Columbia Archives.

"She told me, 'I didn't have anything to do with Columbia,' " Kellner said. "But she was Jim's wife and participated in all these events and certainly was a big part of Columbia because of that, and so of course she was important here."

After James Rouse's death, Patricia "poured herself even moreso" into her work, Kellner said. She also donated her husband's papers to the archives, papers that had been sought out by other organizations.

"She said, 'I really think Jim would like them to stay in Columbia,' " Kellner said.

Ed Cochran, the Howard County executive from 1974 to 1978, said that while he remembered Patricia Rouse mostly for her support of James Rouse, "She had a career and an interest and a passion in her own right."

Said Cochran: "She was sort of an icon for a sensitive public servant who had an interest in making life better for this community, and the larger community of people who needed access to housing.

"I think that's pretty sad that she's no longer with us," he said. "But she did great things when she was here."

Rouse was preceded in death by her youngest son, who died at 24 from an asthma attack. She is survived by a sister, two sons, a daughter and nine grandchildren.

Her family said contributions can be made to The Patty Rouse Fund, which supports Enterprise's work on behalf of the poor, via The Patty Rouse Fund, Enterprise Community Partners Inc., 10227 Wincopin Circle, American City Building, Suite 500, Columbia, MD, 21044.

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