Scottdale woman broke down barriers, loved people
Patricia Walker did not know she was opening doors for future generations when she stepped foot on a train that would take her to San Antonio, Texas, in 1950.
The then 17-year-old made a decision about her life — rather than follow in the footsteps of a lot of young black women in Scottdale, she decided to follow her heart and join the Air Force.
“I told her many times, ‘You’re really brave to grow up in Scottdale and get on a train and head to San Antonio, Texas, through the Jim Crow South,’” said her son, Lynn Scott.
And her decision led her to hold several other roles, like serving as Scottdale’s first black, female mayor from 2004 to 2009.
“Race was not at the forefront for her,” Scott said. “She was a black woman. But in terms of her engaging with people and politics, race was just something she was, it wasn’t something that in some way dictated what she did. She just saw people.”
Patricia Annette Walker, 85, of Scottdale, died Saturday, May 11, 2019, at Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant after a battle with colon cancer.
Born in New York City on Sept. 7, 1933, she was the daughter of Ashby B. Terry and John A. Terry Sr.
Graduating from Scottdale High School in 1951, where she played the clarinet in the marching band, Mrs. Walker quickly enlisted in the Air Force as one of the few women to join at the time. After basic training, she was a member of the Women Air Corps, stationed in Sacramento, Calif., from 1951 to 1954.
Returning to Scottdale after the Air Force, Mrs. Walker worked at Bell Telephone in Greensburg, while raising her family.
“It was a matter of economic need that she worked,” Scott said. “I remember explaining (to others) as a small child that she worked … and it really was a source of pride.”
By 1988, Mrs. Walker was asked to fill an open position on the Scottdale borough council. From there, she was reelected until 2004, when she took the mayor’s seat.
Despite her accomplishments and seemingly breaking down barriers for women of color, Mrs. Walker never bragged about the positions she held.
“I think she was pretty conservative, because it was just something she did,” Scott said. “It was something very natural.”
That mindset carried into her personal life, with Mrs. Walker spending her time enjoying jazz music, modern art or partaking in subdued creativity, Scott said, explaining her love of writing poetry and sending cards to people filled with $2 bills.
Growing up, Mrs. Walker painted the house flamingo pink with gray trim, Scott said, adding she was “interested in unusual art in an unusual way.”
“And her shoe collection kind of covered the spectrum of shoe styles,” he said, laughing.
Mrs. Walker was a member of the Morning Star Baptist Church and the Beulah Baptist Church.
She was “just really very quiet in her spirituality but always had it. I think it was a grounding for her,” Scott said.
Mrs. Walker also was a member of Scottdale’s civil defense organization and served the community in different ways as a Head Start volunteer, secretary of the association of churches, as a Sunday school teacher and pianist, a Salvation Army volunteer and as one of the first women directors of the Scottdale YMCA.
In 2009, she was awarded Scottdale’s Citizen of the Year award.
But what Scott hopes his mother’s life shows is that dreams and opportunities come true when people follow their hearts.
“You’ll have setbacks and you’ll have challenges, but you can look at what she did and say, ‘well things are a little bit easier. It’s not the Jim Crow South anymore.’ And she is kind of this model,” he said.
Mrs. Walker is preceded in death by her daughter, Selina Walker, her husband, Nathaniel Walker, brothers John A. Terry and Chris Terry and her sister, Gloria Allen.
In addition to her son, she is survived by her son Ashby J. Scott of North Royalton, Ohio, her grandchildren Jessica Redmond of Minnesota and Raina Richardson and six great-grandchildren.
Friends will be received 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Frank Kapr Funeral Home, 417 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale. A funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Committal service and interment will follow at the Scottdale Cemetery with full military honors by the Southmoreland Veterans Honor Guard.
Memorial donations may be made to the Scottdale Library, the Jacob Creek Heart to a Senior Program or the Scottdale B.P.W. Scholarship Fund.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .