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Patricia Pruett Onnen, a former fashion model active in hereditary societies, dies

Patricia Pruett Onnen was descended from George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore.
Patricia Pruett Onnen was descended from George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore.

Patricia Pruett Onnen, a former model active in hereditary societies, died of multiple organ failure Nov. 25 at her Cockeysville home. The former Ruxton resident was 94.

Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of R. Edwin Pruett, a Baltimore Sun printer, and his wife, Anna Alberta Bowles, a descendant of a St. Mary’s County family. She attended St. Mary’s Academy in Leonardtown and was a 1944 Seton High School graduate. She was partially raised by her maternal grandparents, county sheriff Daniel Bowles and his wife, Anna Hayden.

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She then studied nursing at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore and joined the Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II. She later enrolled in the Barbizon Modeling School in New York City and became a John Powers model in Manhattan. She returned to Baltimore where she modeled for Hutzler’s department store, the Suburban Club, the Schleisner Co. on Howard Street, and Julius Garfinckel’s in Washington, D.C.

During her modeling career, Mrs. Onnen met her future husband, Ferdinand Henry Onnen Sr., a lieutenant colonel with the Army Air Corps during World War II who went on to found and own Towson Ford.

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They initially lived on Dulaney Valley Road in Towson. In 1954 they purchased a Circle Road home, Kedleston, in Ruxton. She raised her family there and later moved to Cockeysville and resided with a daughter.

“She was a proud descendant of the English Catholics who settled in St. Mary’s County early in the 17th century when the colony was still friendly to those fleeing religious persecution in England,” said her grandson, Tripp Onnen. “She was descended from George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore.”

Mrs. Onnen was a member of the Society of The Ark and The Dove, the Fort Garrison Chapter of the National Society Colonial Dames 17th Century, the Mary Pickersgill Chapter of the United States Daughters of 1812, and the Thomas Johnson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

She traveled widely and was a member of the Baltimore Country Club where she enjoyed golf. Mrs. Onnen belonged to the Women’s Club of Roland Park, the Three Arts Club of Homeland, and the Catholic Evidence League.

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Survivors include a son, Ferdinand H. Onnen Jr. of Lutherville; four daughters, Christine Onnen Diffenderffer of Ruxton, Lisa Onnen Barber and Joanna Onnen Porter, both of Monkton, and Gretchen Onnen Milchling of Cockeysville; a brother, Daniel E. Ellis of Baltimore; a sister, Winifred A. Dalrymple of Chico, California; 15 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Her husband of 31 years died in 1981. A daughter, Patricia Ann Onnen, died in 2015.

A Mass was held Tuesday at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson.

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