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Barbara Pash Milsten of Pikesville, writer and editor, dies

Barbara Pash Milsten was an accomplished Baltimore writer and editor known for versatility, attention to detail and her keen adherence to deadlines.
Barbara Pash Milsten was an accomplished Baltimore writer and editor known for versatility, attention to detail and her keen adherence to deadlines. (HANDOUT)

Barbara Pash Milsten, an accomplished Baltimore writer and editor known for versatility, attention to detail and her keen adherence to deadlines, died Friday at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The Pikesville resident was 75.

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"I have been a part of Barbara Pash's beat for more than 22 years," Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz said in a statement. "I always had tremendous respect for her as a solid journalist and trusted community resource.

"She had a great knack for covering local and state politics, and I will miss her personality and words," Mr. Kamenetz said.

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The daughter of Dr. David T. Pash, a dentist, and Ruth W. Pash, a homemaker, Barbara Ellen Pash was born in Jersey City, N.J., and raised in Morristown, N.J.

After graduating from high school in 1958, she attended the University of Michigan, where she obtained a bachelor's degree in 1962 and a master's degree in history in 1963.

Ms. Milsten was a staff member of the college newspaper, Michigan Daily, whose editor at the time was Tom Hayden. Mr. Hayden later married actress Jane Fonda and became known as a civil rights and political activist.

"I met her in a Russian studies class," said her husband of 52 years, Donald Milsten. "She got an A and I got an A-. She was the smartest lady I ever knew."

They married in 1964 and two years later moved to Baltimore.

"After the kids were … in school, she started freelancing," said Dr. Milsten, a founding faculty member of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who later retired as director of the Maryland Energy Administration.

In 1979, Ms. Milsten joined the staff of the Baltimore Jewish Times as a reporter and worked her way up to local news editor, then senior editor. She used her maiden name, Barbara Pash, as her byline.

As a reporter, her beats were varied. She covered Baltimore metro government, development issues, residential and commercial zoning and business. It was not uncommon for her to write four to six news, feature stories and profiles per week.

During the General Assembly, she oversaw and directed the newspaper's Annapolis bureau.

As an editor, she was responsible for six to eight special sections per year. She developed one of those sections, "Style," from an insert into a stand-alone magazine.

"She did it all," said Alan Feiler, who worked with Ms. Milsten at the Jewish Times and is now the editor of JMORE: Baltimore Jewish Living. "I learned at her feet and she taught us all a lot. There was no one else like her."

"Nothing bothered her. When some politician or important person tried to persuade her not to do a story, she'd push back with brilliance and grace. She was unflappable," said Andrew A. Buerger, who had been publisher of the Jewish Times and CEO of its parent company, Alter Communications.

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"She was dogged and tenacious when pursuing a story. She was not boisterous, but quiet. She was not someone who sought attention," said Mr. Buerger, whose great-grandfather founded the newspaper in 1919. "She was pleasant and a joy to have around the office."

"She was a very determined and focused lady. She demanded a lot of the people she worked with," her husband said.

"As a writer, she loved local hard news. That was her bread and butter. Barbara was a real community journalist and an old-school nuts-and-bolts reporter," Mr. Feiler said. "She was an institution. All of the political players knew her."

"She loved scoops, and she'd go out there and get them. She loved what she was doing, and she was well accepted by everyone," he said.

Mr. Feiler said there was a Hebrew word that best described his longtime colleague and friend.

" 'Neshama' means a good soul, and that's what she was, a good soul," he said. "She was not a flashy person."

Angela Bornemann first met Ms. Milsten when she took a job as a receptionist at the Jewish Times.

"She was the only woman on the staff when I got there and we became friends," said Ms. Bornemann, who later became a reporter and copy editor on the newspaper.

"She was such a good mentor," Ms. Bornemann said. "She was calm, caring and had a wonderful motherly side. Someone said at her funeral that she was a 'rock,' and she was the rock of our staff."

In addition to her regular work, Ms. Milsten was a prolific freelance writer who wrote for publications including Carroll Magazine, Chesapeake Life, The Beacon, Washington Jewish Life, What's Up? Annapolis and organizational publications such as the University of Baltimore Magazine.

During the 1980s, she wrote for The Baltimore Sun and penned extensive feature articles for the old Sunday Sun Magazine, where her topics included medical issues, bagpipers and home restoration projects to the Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum.

Even after leaving the Jewish Times in 2009, Ms. Milsten continued to produce a steady stream of articles.

"I'd drive her from Cumberland to Berlin for stories. I was her driver, but she didn't like me telling people that," her husband said with a laugh. "She was always hustling and pitching stories all the time."

Ms. Bornemann, who later was editor of the Owings Mills Times, Towson Times, Jeffersonian, North County News and Northeast Booster Reporter with the Baltimore Sun Media Group, edited many of Ms. Milsten's freelance stories.

"She was a good writer and a detailed listener. She was very persistent in getting things right. She never missed a deadline and she could good turn around a story fast," said Ms. Bornemann, who retired last year.

Ms. Bornemann said she never complained about editing, suggestions or corrections.

"If someone was complaining about how their story had been edited or the art that ran with it, she'd say, 'Did they pay you? Then it is theirs,'" she said. "She did not suffer fools gladly."

Through the years, Ms. Milsten's work earned her many honors, including several at the most recent Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association awards in May.

Ms. Milsten was a voracious reader, and enjoyed topics ranging from history and biography to Harry Potter, her husband said.

She was a member of Har Sinai Congregation.

Funeral services were held Monday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Dr. Andrew Milsten of Auburndale, Mass.; two daughters, Ruth Milsten of Annapolis and Naomi Gruer of Millburn, N.J.; a brother, Dr. Robert Pash of Denver; a sister, Jessica Pash of New York City; and nine grandchildren.

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