Obituary: Patricia Ann Crawford / Pittsburgh city schools public relations leader
Patricia Ann Crawford, the public voice of Pittsburgh Public Schools for more than two decades, died Friday in Mississippi.
Known as unflappable and indefatigable, Ms. Crawford gained a reputation for her credibility and her ability to help others in her role that began as public information officer in 1979 and grew to director of communications and marketing by the time she retired in 2005.
She was ill for many years in her retirement, and she and her husband, Carl, who had lived in Point Breeze, in recent years moved to Madison, Miss., to be near the family of their daughter, Gen McAlpin of Madison.
Ms. Crawford died of Parkinson-plus at age 70.
Born and raised in Chicago, Ms. Crawford earned a bachelor's degree in history from Loyola University in Chicago and a master's degree in communications and public relations from Temple University.
She and her husband were married in 1965 and spent their first two years on Guam, where she taught school and he was an Air Force officer.
She came to Pittsburgh from a public relations post in Camden, N.J., at a time when Pittsburgh's school desegregation plan was taking shape.
Less than a year after she started, Jerry Olson, who was superintendent when she was hired, was forced out. But Ms. Crawford lasted through many superintendents and interim superintendents.
"She was the kind of person who could adapt and adjust," said Jean Fink, who has been on the school board for more than 30 years. "She got along with people. ...
"She was good. She was able to get news releases out quickly when something happened. She always communicated with the parent reps."
Barbara Rudiak, now interim chief of student support services and former principal of Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 on the South Side, recalled how Ms. Crawford helped her with communications around adding a Spanish magnet program to Phillips and other matters.
"Just her sense of calm helped you remain calm," Ms. Rudiak said.
When Ms. Rudiak asked for advice on communications, Ms. Crawford was able to give her good guidance.
Ms. Rudiak said Ms. Crawford also knew the schools well.
"When stories were going to be done, she seemed to know which principals to go to who had expertise in a certain area," Ms. Rudiak said.
Lynne Turnquist, a retiree who worked for decades for the school district, recalled working as information coordinator for Ms. Crawford in the early 1980s, when the school district was implementing its desegregation plan.
Parent volunteers manned a phone bank helping to answer parents' questions. "It was a huge task in making sure the parents had the right information," Ms. Turnquist said.
"She was the most professional, unjealous person that I ever knew. She didn't stand on ceremony at all. She wasn't concerned with titles. She was concerned with who could get the job done and get it done well."
Ms. Turnquist said one of Ms. Crawford's strengths was analyzing a situation and determining what was needed.
Mary Ellen Kirby, a retiree whose jobs included magnet school recruiter and coordinator of parent and community involvement, recalled how Ms. Crawford thought ahead.
When Ryan White was kicked out of school in Kokomo, Ind., because of HIV/AIDS, Ms. Crawford worked with the Pittsburgh district to develop a policy before it was needed.
Ms. Kirby said Ms. Crawford taught her the "vital ABCs of good community relations and good public relations: honest information, timely information, delivered to the correct audience."
Ms. Crawford was a passionate tennis player, winning some amateur trophies.
She also loved to travel, including vacationing in Southern Shores, N.C. Other places she and her husband visited included Japan, Vietnam, England, Greece and Nova Scotia.
In addition to her husband and daughter, Ms. Crawford is survived by a son, Geoff of Park Place; a sister, Jan Chiles of Wheaton, Ill.; two brothers, George Luetkemeyer and Tom Luetkemeyer, both of Chicago; and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for noon Saturday at McCabe Brothers Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St., Shadyside.
First Published March 12, 2013 12:00 am