Patricia L. Ashby, former longtime administrative secretary at Lansdowne High School who later became an art teacher, died Tuesday in her sleep at her Owings Mills home. She was 73.
Patricia Bannert was born and raised in San Jose, Calif., and graduated from Hayward High School in Hayward, Calif.
After graduating from high school, she moved to San Francisco, where she attended finishing school and worked as a model and seamstress.
In 1957, she married Raymond Ashby, a Social Security Administration manager, who was transferred to the SSA headquarters in Woodlawn in 1960. He died last year.
Mrs. Ashby began volunteering at Relay Elementary School in the 1970s, and eventually became the principal's secretary. In 1980, she took a similar job at Lansdowne High School.
"She was a wonderful person and a super lady. She was always very kind and thorough and held all of the institutional knowledge of the school," said former Lansdowne Principal John W. Bereska, now principal of Hereford High School.
"Pat cared deeply about the school, its policies and its kids. She was a rock," Mr. Bereska said. "She was always very friendly, cheerful and upbeat. I never, ever saw her sad or despondent."
Margie Wright succeeded Mrs. Ashby as administrative secretary after she retired in 2002, and she joined Mrs. Ashby and other Lansdowne High retirees for dinner once a month.
"Pat was an amazing lady and very kind-hearted. Whenever you needed her, she was always there," Ms. Wright said. "She was a very calming influence and always a pleasure to work with."
Another of Mrs. Ashby's duties was helping new principals get to know their new school and community.
"It was my first principalship, and because she had worked for so many principals, she knew how to break them in. Secretaries actually run those schools, and she did a great job training me," said Patrick S. McCusker, now principal of Dulaney High School.
"She was always kind and had a great sense of humor, and it showed in how she treated the staff. She also knew the community, cared deeply about it and understood their concerns," Mr. McCusker said.
After her children had attained their college degrees, Mrs. Ashby enrolled at the University of Maryland, University College.
"She went part time for 16 years until she earned a degree in communications in 1985," said her daughter, Julie A. Kromkowski of Towson.
An accomplished painter, Mrs. Ashby had taught children at the Fink School of Traditional Art in Reisterstown for more than 10 years.
"Pat worked in pastels and oils and loved painting landscapes. She also took great pleasure in the pastel portrait she did of her grandson," said Alan J. Fink, an artist who owns the school.
"She absolutely loved teaching children and she was devoted to them. She taught the 7- to 12-year-olds, and she handled them superbly with a mixture of love, devotion and discipline," Mr. Fink said.
"She knew how to get them to work, and it will be difficult for them not to see her anymore," he said.
Despite her failing health, Mrs. Ashby continued to work.
"She just kept on going and was continuing to turn out art," her daughter said.
She enjoyed attending the theater, movies, reading and sewing. She also liked reading to her grandchildren.
"She was a great storyteller and had a lively speaking style that made words come alive," her daughter said.
Mrs. Ashby was a member of Towson Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave., where a memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. today.
Also surviving are a son, Brian A. Ashby of Westminster; two brothers, John Bannert of Dublin, Calif., and Graydon Bannert Jr. of Manteca, Calif.; a sister, Margaret Botello of Murrieta, Calif.; and two grandsons.