Mildred Patterson Putnam
Mildred Patterson “Pat” Putnam, 90, organizer, educator, environmentalist, and friend to many communities in Orange for six decades, died Oct. 2, 2009, in San Antonio, Texas, in the company of her family. Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, at Claybar Funeral Home, 504 N. 5th Street in Orange.
Pat was born March 27, 1919, in Durham, N.C.. She was the youngest of three daughters of Karl Patterson, a professor of mathematics at Duke University, and Mary Stecher Patterson. Pat graduated summa cum laude from Duke University in 1939 with a degree in chemistry. She earned a master’s degree in the same subject from the University of Michigan the following year. On April 19, 1941, she married Glenn Putnam, who was her lifelong sweetheart, companion and collaborator until Glenn’s death on Dec. 26, 2007.
During the Second World War, Pat was a chemist in the nylon laboratory of the DuPont Company in Wilmington, Del. At the same time, she worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross and Civil Defense.
Pat and Glenn moved to Orange in 1948. One of her early activities was to assist in getting Girls’ Haven started. She was chair of the Guidance Committee, a job that involved discovering the aptitudes of the girls and guiding them into suitable training and employment.
Pat worked to promote racial harmony throughout her time in Orange. In the early 1950’s, she helped to organize the first inter-racial service of Church Women United. She also joined with African-American leaders in Orange to employ a black public health nurse for Orange County.
Pat and Glenn lived in Victoria, Texas, from 1955 to 1962, before returning to Orange. While in Victoria, Pat was active in the League of Women Voters and the Adult Literacy Council, eventually serving as president of the Texas Literacy Council. This work continued after her return to Orange, where she completed two books to help adults learn to read and write English. Although Pat never took an education course, her books became standard works in the field, selling half a million copies nationwide between 1967 and 1997.
In the early 1960’s, Pat worked with leaders of the black and white communities to organize the Orange Community Action Association, designed to build a bridge of understanding among people of different races and backgrounds. The OCAA established a kindergarten, a day-care center, and the “Meals on Wheels” program. Later Pat co-founded Positive Education for Early Parenting, an educational program for infants and their parents.
In 1973, Pat helped to organize the Thrift and Gift Shop, a non-profit organization that became a social center for hundreds of senior citizens. The Thrift and Gift Shop was the starting point for Heritage Center, which Pat and Glenn organized to provide housing for the elderly and disabled. Later Pat and Glenn worked with others to establish the Planned Living Assistance Network of Southeast Texas (PLAN), which provides services for the elderly and adults with mental illness. Pat and Glenn also helped to establish Roselawn Manor, a new residential facility for persons suffering from chronic mental illness.
Pat was an avid hiker, amateur botanist, and supporter of efforts to preserve the natural environment. She was a docent for the nature classroom and loved to take walks at Shangri La.
Pat was the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her efforts on behalf of the community. She was honored by the American Institute for Public Service, the Altrusa Club, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Young Men’s Christian Association, and others. By proclamation, Orange Mayor Brown Claybar designated Feb. 24, 2009 as Pat Putnam day and presented Pat with a key to the city.
Pat is survived by her five children, Margaret “Peggy” Templeton of Jefferson, Texas, Karl and his partner Noel of El Paso, Martin and wife Stella of the San Francisco Bay Area, Kay Jasper and husband Glenn of Canyon Lake, Texas, and Robert and his partner Samantha of Stow, Massachusetts; by six grandchildren: Martin’s children, Marcela Putnam (husband Jon) and Daniel Putnam; Kay’s children, Amy Parker (husband Kevin), Brent Jasper (wife Jennifer), and Lindsay Mercer (husband Alex); and Robert’s son, Nathan Putnam; and by two great-grandchildren, Alyssa and Landon Parker, daughter and son of Amy and Kevin.
In lieu of flowers, friends may make donations to Roselawn Manor, 1301 S. MLK Drive, Orange, TX 77630 (c/o Michael Dubois, CPA, Treasurer), or PLAN of Southeast Texas, 350 37th Street, Orange, TX 77630.