Debbie Paladino, an IBM manager who had been a standout athlete while a Centennial High School student, died of pancreatic cancer Sunday at a West Palm Beach, Fla. hospital. The former Ellicott City resident was 44.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago, she moved with her parents to Maryland in 1978.
"Fate sent Debbie Paladino to Centennial High School because an athlete of her ilk comes along every 100 years," said a 1981 Evening Sun article that named her the paper's Female Prep Athlete of the Year.
"We'll never see another like her," said her basketball coach, Ellicott City resident Gail Purcell. "We measure athletes in Howard County who were around in the 1980s by Debbie's accomplishments. She was a ferocious competitor."
During her high school career Ms. Paladino received nine varsity letters. She won state championships in cross-country and basketball, and took a state runner-up finish in softball.
She shot 55 percent from the floor as a high school senior and was named to the Converse All-America First Team.
She received an athletic scholarship to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where she earned a degree in business management. She played for its women's basketball team for all four years. In 1982, as a freshman, her team won a national championship. She was a starter in her junior and senior years.
After graduation she joined IBM in Bethesda and worked as a manager in computer systems security. After living in Damascus, she relocated to Florida four years ago and continued with IBM as a senior project manager.
As an adult, she played slow-pitch softball and rec basketball, and coached Little League baseball in Damascus.
Services will held at 10:30 a.m. Friday in at the Palms West Funeral Home in Royal Palm Beach.
Survivors include Ida Fitz, her partner of several years; her parents, James "Jim" and Jean Paladino of West Palm Beach, Fla.; a brother, Andy Paladino of Owings Mills; and nieces and nephews.