Patricia Sonquist Lane

Environmentalist was active in the League of Women Voters and Maryland Radiation Control Advisory Board

May 08, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Patricia Sonquist Lane, a volunteer environmentalist who tested water quality in Baltimore's parks and stream valleys, died of cancer May 1 at the Charlestown retirement community. The former Mount Washington resident was 79.

Born Patricia Sonquist in Dayton, Iowa, she met her future husband, Dr. M. Daniel Lane, at a freshman mixer at Iowa State University. She later earned an art history degree at New York University and a master's degree at the Johns Hopkins University.

After moving to Baltimore in 1969 with her husband, now chairman emeritus of the John Hopkins department of biological chemistry, she began addressing environmental issues. She took on nuclear energy and drinking-water quality questions and often worked in conjunction with the League of Women Voters of Baltimore City. Mrs. Lane focused her attention on the Jones and Gwynns falls and the Herring and Western runs.

"I will always remember Pat as indomitable. Though she had a soft voice, she was unstoppable. She was from Iowa and proud of it. Pat was Baltimore's 'water maiden,' " said June Wing, a friend who lives in Baltimore.

In the 1980s, Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed her to the Energy Task Force.

At times, she was also the lone citizen member of the Maryland Radiation Control Advisory Board, a division of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

"She was a significant contributor to the board," said Bob Hiscock, the board's chairman, who lives in Randallstown. "She had a knack for getting to the heart of issues. She served as a conscience to many members of the board."

Because of the danger of skin cancer, Mrs. Lane questioned whether children and teenagers should be allowed to use commercial tanning booths. She also followed industrial, medical and educational uses of radiation.

After the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident, she participated in writing a report, "Nuclear Use In and Around Maryland."

She will be awarded a posthumous citation from the Maryland Department of the Environment for her work on the board.

"Pat was a passionate and very effective Baltimore community activist," said Judith Lipman, a former League of Women Voters president. "She was the League to many people engaged in issues relating to the environment — whether it was sewage spills in the Jones Falls, air pollutants from medical incinerators or the safety of nuclear power plants."

Mrs. Lipman recalled her as a "happy person" who could motivate others to become interested in the environment.

Mrs. Lane focused on issues that included air quality, transportation, medical waste, land planning and recycling. She was an early proponent of recycling and advocated for the city's early recycling bins located at the Poly-Western High School parking lot. The success of this effort persuaded city officials to initiate curbside recycling.

She received a special commendation award from the Mount Washington Improvement Association for her contributions to the environment.

Friends said that Mrs. Lane attended legislative sessions and testified before the Baltimore City Council and Maryland General Assembly committees.

"Her work was totally unsung," said Sandy Sparks, a fellow environmental advocate who lives in Baltimore. "She was quiet, unassuming, persistent and diligent. She did a lot of homework."

Mrs. Lane also addressed drinking-water quality as a member of the Jones Falls Watershed Coalition. She believed that clean drinking water had become a national and global problem exacerbated by global warming.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. June 5 at Charlestown, 719 Maiden Choice Lane.

Survivors include her husband of 59 years; a son, M. Daniel Lane Jr. of London; a daughter, Claudia Lane of Baltimore; a brother, the Rev. G. Charles Sonquist of Detroit; a sister, Phyllis Lansing of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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