Those who knew Patty Vallance were affected by her energy, spirit and willingness to help through community service.

Vallance, a businesswoman, author and philanthropist, was remembered by friends and community leaders as an advocate for those in need.

She died June 3 at Northwest Medical Center of complications after surgery, said friend Mike McKendrick, chairman of the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.

Vallance, 62, worked for years to raise funds for the nonprofit foundation she helped create.

“Patty’s passion in the last five years was the foundation’s endowment fund, which insures the work in taking care of our firefighters continues into the future,” said McKendrick. “The fire foundation works largely with firefighter health and wellness — cardiac, cancer and mental health issues — the three main killers of firefighters.”

She was among others who helped raise $500,000 for the endowment fund. Her support of the organization goes back to when she wrote a children’s book, “Born to Wear Blue,” which explains the life and job of a firefighter.

In a 2012 Arizona Daily Star interview about the book, Vallance said: “People are born to do this job. You can teach the skill, but you cannot teach the integrity, character and compassion that goes with the job.” She dedicated the book to Sterling Charles Lytle, 25, a firefighter for the Nogales Fire Department who died after being critically injured in a hit-and-run in Tucson.

In 2005, Vallance motivated youth and families to donate clothing and household appliances to a distribution center she started to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees arriving in Tucson after their communities were flooded and destroyed.

She urged for the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona to take a lead role and rally other community services agencies to take part, recalled Stuart Mellan, recently retired president and chief executive officer of the federation.

“Patty had a remarkable source of energy and her ambition to make the world a better place was insatiable,” said Mellan. “There were so many times where I would get a call from Patty about something she wanted to take on. Frankly, if it had been anyone else, I would have thought it was too big an idea.”

Mellan remembered the time in 2004 that she helped move the community to help elderly residents with the support of Pima Council on Aging, Tucson police and the Jewish Federation. Some 500 volunteers participated in renovating the homes of seniors and cleaning up their yards on Make a Difference Day. This resulted in national recognition and a $10,000 check awarded by actor-philanthropist Paul Newman to the federation to continue its charity work.

“Patty was a bridge builder and she was very proud of her Jewish community and identity,” said Mellan, adding that she helped form an exchange program between Tucson-area and Israeli firefighters.

Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz, the spiritual leader of the Foothills Shul at Beis Yael and director of Judaic studies at Tucson Hebrew Academy, said he met Vallance in 2000 and she brought her energy and enthusiasm into the academy.

She led fundraisers for the students to go to Israel, and her goodwill spread to the Ronald McDonald house with her bringing young and old to help spruce up the property that provides lodging and meals to families living there while their children are receiving treatment at local hospitals, said Lewkowicz.

Vallance was born Aug. 20, 1957, in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. She moved with her family to Tucson 20 years ago. Her then husband worked for Raytheon Missile Systems. In addition to her philanthropic work, Vallance was a partner in an estate sales company.

She is survived by son, Zev Vallance, and daughter, Noa Vallance.

On June 5, Vallance was afforded the unusual opportunity to be taken in a last alarm historic fire truck to her burial site at Evergreen Cemetery. Some 300 vehicles in a procession passed by her grave site where services were limited to family. In April 2021, a public celebration of her life will be planned when her headstone will be unveiled, McKendrick said.


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Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at cduarte@tucson.com or 573-4104. On Twitter: @cduartestar.