Patricia H. Portwood, a former teacher, principal, and district administrator for Modesto City Schools, and a strong advocate for the Stanislaus County library system, education, women, children, and many other causes, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes at her home in Turlock on November 2, 2023.
Pat was born in Dermott, Arkansas on October 1, 1946. She was a Girl Scout in Rio De Janeiro, a Camp Counselor on Santa Catalina Island, and by high school was already so involved with after-school activities that her family could barely keep up with all the things she was doing. She lived in places as far flung as Miles City, Montana, and Bogotá Colombia, and began her teaching career in Southern California. But it was here in the great Central Valley where she and her beloved husband Ron Baram would take root and find a place to call home.
Pat graduated from Arcadia High School in 1964, received her B.A. from the University of Southern California in 1968, and her Master’s from California State University, Stanislaus. She and Ron moved to Turlock in 1987, where she took a post teaching for Modesto City Schools. Her tenure with the district would span 23 distinguished years, with Pat concluding her 42-year career in education as the Associate Superintendent of the Academic Learning Community.
Pat lived life to the fullest, appreciated every moment of it, and was a generous, loving, presence in this world. As a child, she was an often-mischievous instigator, but, in retrospect, she was merely honing her skills for the passionate, creative educator and community leader she would become. She was a never-ending source of positive energy, always eager to embrace new ideas or undertake another project.
Pat never stopped believing that all good things were possible, so long as we kept working at it. Most of all, she believed in people, loved them with all her heart, hoped that we would all treat each other with kindness and compassion, and took great joy in being a part of this community. If you were genuine, it didn’t take long to become Pat’s friend.
She and Ron were perfect for each other, and the very last photograph Pat shared on Facebook was of the two of them embracing. Pat loved the California coast and walking along the windswept beaches of Carmel or Jenner with Ron by her side, and oh, boy, did Pat love dogs! She loved Thanksgivings up at Monte Rio and touching base with family and friends.
When Pat was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, she met it head on, beat it back, and walked in every Relay for Life after that with a deep sense of gratitude and a renewed relish for life. Defeating cancer gave Pat added impetus as she worked full bore for others and our community until the day she died.
Pat simply didn’t know the meaning of the word “retirement,” joining the board of the Stanislaus Library Foundation in 2010, which was just the start of an extraordinarily productive decade and more of post-retirement energy which saw Pat coordinate the Measure T campaign in Turlock for funding of the library system ; serve as county co- chair for the resoundingly successful measure S campaign in 2017, which extended library funding for the system through 2029; and, as President of the Friends of the Turlock Library, Pat chaired the capital campaign which made possible the renovation of the Turlock Library, and its grand reopening in 2021. Working with other volunteers in that group, she also spearheaded a program which brings well-known authors such as Tara Westover and Lisa Wingate to speak to local audiences.
Pat was a longtime member of and held key leadership positions with the TurlockModesto Branch of American Association of University Women; The Tuesday Reading Club in Turlock; and had also in recent years served as Meet & Learn Coordinator for the Stanislaus County League of Women Voters. She was also a member of the Stanislaus County Commission for Women and was a recipient of that organization’s Outstanding Woman Award in 2017. Pat’s volunteer commitments brought her much joy and many wonderful friendships.
She was a devoted daughter to her parents, and big sister to her brothers across eight decades and two continents and was ever supportive and encouraging in everything they did, particularly these last many years after both their parents had passed. Pat was a force of nature for our family, for the many, many friends she and Ron cherished, and for the community she loved. We love her dearly and miss her terribly.
Pat is preceded in death by her parents, Thomas B. Portwood, Jr, and Peggy Portwood. She is survived by her husband Ron; her brothers Tom of Modesto CA, and Tim and his husband Jim Lauber of Monte Rio Ca. A celebration of Pat’s remarkable and impactful life will be held in the spring, notice of which will be given on Facebook. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Friends of the Turlock Library, or to your local library.