Baltimoreans were shaken in the early morning hours of Sept. 28 with news of a house fire that claimed the lives of a well known and much loved couple, Donald and Jennye Patterson. Donald, a retired assistant superintendent of Baltimore Schools, was also the brother of the first Black superintendent of schools, Roland Patterson. Jennye was a retired teacher and a dedicated community volunteer.
The Pattersons have been an intricate part of the cultural scene of this city, and have been captured by AFRO photographers at events hosted by the Guardsmen and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity because of his affiliation, and the Deltas and the Links because of Jennye.
“Today is a very sad one for the members of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Our Soror Jennye Patterson, a devoted Delta for 60 years and a long-time member of the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter will be truly missed.
“She was very supportive of and involved in the programs of our sorority. Most recently she worked with our Emeritus Committee serving food to seniors in our Eating Together Program each Thursday,” said Eleanor Peters Matthews, president, Baltimore Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
“Soror Patterson was well liked and loved Delta.”
Matthews said the two would leave a void in the Baltimore community.
“Jennye and Donald were both strong supporters and contributors to the educational system in Baltimore and respectfully supported Morgan State University. Their death has left a void in the tight knit community on Mohawk Avenue,” said Valerie Fraling, Living for the Weekend AFRO columnist.
“The sweet gentle spirit of Donald and Jennye will be missed by all.”
Attorney Russell Frisby, nephew of Jennye Patterson shared his recollections of his aunt. “My Aunt Jennye Thomas Patterson was a life long educator and a significant contributor to many global organizations and charities. Jenny and Donald Patterson were a real force that will be missed.”
“Jennye was my mother’s younger sister and she was always the spirited one in the family. She was always very adventurous and always encouraged you to push the envelope.”
Father Donald Sterling, pastor of New All Saints Roman Catholic Church said he was shocked.
“You can’t comprehend it. It just makes you realize how fragile life is—how much we take for granted. My thought for today is to make the best of today.”
Judson and Goldie Wood, close friends, fraternity brother and sorority sister were no less shocked by the news.
“Donald and Jennye truly lived by the belief that friendship is essential to the soul. As an Omega brother, a Delta sister and two outstanding educators, they were friends and assets to the Greater Baltimore and beyond,” they said.
“Through their various social organizations and clubs, they were highly recognized as leaders in the educating and uplifting of people, young and old. They were renowned for their many professional fraternal sorority and societal endeavors.They will be missed but never forgotten.”
Jennye was a charter member, past president and chair of various committees in the Patapsco River Chapter of the Links, making Donald, a Connecting Link.
“We will all miss her warm smile and the kind words she shared with members. She was a true public servant in every sense of the word,” said Donnie E. Brown, Patapsco Chapter president.
“To know Link Jennye was to love Link Jennye and we all loved her very much.”
A sister-in-law, Katherine Patterson was also stunned to hear the news.
“Never in my dreams would I believe that it would be Jennye and Donald when I heard the news,” she said. “Jennye and I go back to our college days together. I just can’t get over it. It’s too much to bear.”
Added to the enormous outpouring of sentiments at the tragic deaths of the Pattersons is Morgan State University’s President Dr. David Wilson, who stated that “Morgan State University is indeed saddened by the loss of these two members of our family. Donald and Jennye were both alumni of the University and were very active in the alumni association. From the time I first met them, I was struck by their commitment to the University and their gentle, gregarious nature. It was not unusual to see one or both of them at any number of Morgan events; in fact, I just spoke with Donald at our season home opening football game two weeks ago. The Pattersons were so generous with their time and financial support to the students at Morgan that their loss leaves a void that will not be easily filled. The University adds its voice to the many that are expressing condolences to the Patterson family.”
Hours of visitation for family members and friends of Donald and Jennye Patterson are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, at March Funeral Home West, 4300 Wabash Ave. Observances will resume with a wake, 6 -9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 at the Murphy Fine Arts Building at Morgan State University, 2201 Argonne Drive, with a Memorial Service following. A private service will be held on Oct. 6.