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Patricia J. Alton(1940-2011)

(News article) A retired Toledo elementary schoolteacher and an owner of champion Basset hounds whose devotion to the breed began decades ago during a simple search for a pet, died of pneumonia Tuesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. Patricia J. Alton was 70.

Ms. Alton and Sandi Wittenberg were business partners in Red Bay Bassets, a Basset hound breeding concern begun more than 20 years ago, but they were also friends. Ms. Alton never married and had no children. The Wittenbergs were her extended family.

The intent has been "to better the breed," Mrs. Wittenberg said. "You have to truly love the breed to get into breeding. It's not for the faint of heart; it's a lot of heartbreak, a lot of expense. And you don't make money if you do it right."

Ms. Alton kept the females in her West Toledo home, and Mrs. Wittenberg the males at her Temperance home. Red Bay Bassets have always been house - never kennel - dogs. Mrs. Wittenberg now cares for all the dogs at her residence.

Ms. Alton also showed her dogs, and they amassed championships and titles in the last 25 years. In 2010, one of her Bassets was an American Kennel Club champion of the breed, Ms. Wittenberg said. In 1985, her Basset, Vahala's Loveland Lane Flash Point, was American/Canadian breed champion.

"Flash just wants to stand around and look pretty," Ms. Alton told The Blade then.

She believed breeders need to be involved in breed rescue efforts. She and Mrs. Wittenberg were early supporters of Michigan Basset Rescue.

"She was like a mentor," said Melissa Fenchel, president of the rescue group, which she founded about 20 years ago. "She had a very calming nature about her, maybe kind of Basset-like. If she had a bad day, I don't think you would know it. The Bassets are a lot like that.

"They're very reputable, responsible breeders. She put her heart and soul into that and took it very seriously."

When in the mid-1960s she searched for her first dog, she chose a Basset for its laid-back temperament. She started going to dog shows, and her interest and involvement grew, she told The Blade in 1985.

For a decade in retirement, she was a supervisor for the dog day-care program at Sylvania Veterinary Hospital.

Ms. Alton taught third and fourth grade at Old Orchard Elementary School, retiring in the mid-1990s.

"Her strong suit was instilling a love of learning and reading," said Mrs. Wittenberg, a retired principal of Raymer Elementary School. In the 1970s, Old Orchard was in the vanguard of educational reform and became a training ground for the University of Toledo. "She became part of that," Mrs. Wittenberg said.

She was born March 6, 1941, in Toledo to Golda and Eugene Alton. She was a graduate of DeVilbiss High School and received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Toledo.

There are no immediate survivors.

A memorial celebration will be from 5-7 p.m. July 17 at Mrs. Wittenberg's Temperance home. Arrangements are by the H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home.

Tributes are suggested to Michigan Basset Rescue, Waterford, Mich.

Contact writer Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

Funeral Home

H.H. Birkenkamp Funeral Home
3219 Tremainsville Road Toledo, OH 43613
(419) 473-1301

Published in Toledo Blade on July 10, 2011
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