Just before midnight Monday, Maryland’s senators rose in unanimous applause of Sen. Paul Pinsky. After three years of work, the Prince George’s County Democrat had shepherded through the chamber a sweeping legislative achievement ― the passage of the Kirwan Commission reforms of public schools.
But as Pinsky stood to speak after the vote, his voice filled with sorrow. Pinsky told his colleagues he had to rush home to be with his wife, Joan Rothgeb, who was in the “very late stages” of a battle with cancer.
Pinksy and Rothgeb ― the retired director of special education for Prince George’s County schools ― were activists together earlier in life. A photo taken in the 1980s at a national labor demonstration shows the couple side by side, with Pinsky holding a bullhorn.
Later in life, Rothgeb became an avid triathlete.
But last year, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The family tried everything to help her get better. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Surgery. No treatment was successful.