Patricia Carlo, of Bensalem, an English teacher who made an impact on generations of students during her 47-year career at Archbishop Ryan High School, died of lung cancer Jan. 28 at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital at age 67.
She began working at Ryan in 1973, and an estimated 8,225 students filtered through her classroom over the years. Carlo taught many children of her former students and even a grandchild of a former student.
Carlo was still an active teacher at Ryan. She went to the doctor’s office Jan. 2, a day before classes were set to resume, and found out something was wrong. She ended up being diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer.
Ryan announced Carlo’s death on its Facebook page, and the post garnered more than 300 comments from alumni and parents.
She grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and attended St. Leo School before graduating from St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls in 1969. Carlo went on to La Salle University and earned a master’s degree in education from Holy Family University.
For her entire career, Carlo was an English teacher, having taught just about every class in the subject. Literacy was incredibly important to her, former colleagues said, and she would give kids extra credit for getting a library card.
“She just believed that every child could succeed and part of that was with reading, and how many students come in without a love of reading,” said Cathy Capilato McKeown, a former Ryan teacher.
Friends and fellow educators described Carlo as a spitfire with a keen sense of humor. Although only 5 feet tall, she was a mighty presence in the halls of Ryan.
Former colleagues said she developed a great relationship with her students and would often keep in touch with graduates.
“The kids loved her. Even the bad kids,” said Rosemary Leone, a longtime English teacher at Ryan who retired last year. “She would talk to them. She really was excellent at what she did as far as dealing with the kids and everything.”
(Leone contacted the Times after the story published to say she did not mean to call any students “bad.” She said she just wanted to convey that Carlo reached everybody, even struggling students.)
Roe Korbel Naab, another retired Ryan teacher, remembers being impressed when Carlo received her reading specialist certification several years ago.
“She wasn’t afraid to reinvent herself,” Naab said. “She had a lot of courage.”
Carlo was heavily involved in the school’s Kairos retreat program and also was a big supporter of Ryan’s sports teams.
She formed a connection with a group of women who, like her, began teaching at Ryan when they were in their early 20s and remained at the school for decades. A group of about 10 of them, mostly retired, gathered Friday afternoon at Iron Hill Brewery in Huntingdon Valley to talk about Carlo.
“We were all sisters,” Leone said. “Pat was the nucleus often. She’s the one who would get us together.”
Some remembered how, nearly 20 years ago, Carlo received a call while at work and was informed she had a brain aneurysm. She had two brain surgeries and returned to Ryan.
“So when we heard about this, it’s just another fight,” Leone said. “You’ll come through.”
Former colleagues said Carlo was 99 percent sure she would retire after this school year. They had plans to travel and dreams of being like “The Golden Girls.”
“We had a lot of plans for retirement,” Leone said. “The saddest thing is she couldn’t enjoy that. That’s what breaks our hearts.”
Friends said Carlo was a devout Catholic, Zumba enthusiast and counted her steps, clocking 10,000 just about everyday. She also loved animals, especially her cat Max who died in October.
Carlo is survived by her brother Frank J. Carlo Jr. (Joanne) and her nephew Stephen Carlo.
Services were held Saturday at St. Ephrem Church in Bensalem. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to Archbishop Ryan High School, 11201 Academy Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154. ••