Patty L. Parsons, 48, labor lawyer, writer

August 20, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Patty Leigh Parsons, a poet and labor lawyer who championed the rights of blue-collar workers in negotiations, litigation and arbitration, died Friday at University of Maryland Medical Center of sepsis resulting from a perforated esophagus. She was 48.

Ms. Parsons was born in Salisbury and raised in Pocomoke City. She enrolled in law school after an undergraduate adviser at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County told her "the best way to become a writer was to study the law," said her stepbrother, Chris Wilson, who lived with her in Comus, Montgomery County.

At the University of Baltimore law school, Ms. Parsons was drawn to labor law because it offered a way to correct the social injustices she perceived when "someone was done wrong," said her sister, the Rev. Ann Adams of Violetville.

She took the same artistic approach to the practice of law that she did to her oil paintings, poetry and flower gardens.

"She had a theory ... that in the law, you begin a case by forming a blank canvas and then painting those characteristics and features of the law that apply to the case," Mr. Wilson said. "In that way, the law was like art to her, and she was an extraordinary artist and a magnificent lawyer."

Once a partner at Abato, Rubenstein & Abato in Baltimore, Ms. Parsons twice left the firm to practice on her own. She represented about 825 individual and group action clients during her career, winning more than 85 percent of her cases, her family said.

She was named outstanding advocate in her third year of law school and was listed in Who's Who of Women Executives from 1989 to 1991. Recently, she was researching the extension of labor practices within American foreign policy and was in the midst of applying to Harvard University, where she hoped to earn a doctorate of judicial science, Mr. Wilson said.

Twice divorced, Ms. Parsons kept her maiden name. She enjoyed playing tennis, her pets - a Pomeranian named Delilah and cats Elmo and Baby - and working in her extensive gardens, where the iris was her favorite bloom and a plant arrangement was nicknamed "the deer buffet."

Ms. Parsons was the rare gardener, Mr. Wilson explained, who not only didn't mind deer visiting her gardens, but she fed them in the front yard.

Mr. Wilson said his sister would be missed for her wit, charm and unconventional approach to life and the law.

"Will Rogers is credited with saying, `I never met a man I didn't like,' and I think there's a corollary that applies to Patty," he said. "I didn't know anyone who met her who didn't like her immediately. This world may have lost a huge heart, but it's gained an enormous angel."

A memorial service will be held at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Hubbard Funeral Home, 4107 Wilkens Ave., Baltimore.

In addition to her sister and stepbrother, Ms. Parsons is survived by her stepfather, E. Carmel Wilson Jr. of Baltimore.

The family suggested memorial donations to Deaf Camps, c/o Toby Witte-Dix, 911 Regina Ave., Baltimore 21227, to provide camp scholarships for needy children.

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