TAMPA - Pat Colmenares lived almost her entire life in the public eye. But she was so modest and unassuming that few of the people she worked with knew much about her life.
In recent years, Mrs. Colmenares was one of Tampa's leading Realtors. She specialized in very high-end homes, and counted major sports figures among her clients.
But many of the people she worked with in the real estate business didn't know she had been one of the Tampa Bay area's most popular television personalities. From 1971 to 1983 she was one of the hosts of Pulse Plus!, a mid-day entertainment and interview show on WTVT-Ch. 13.
And even her co-workers at WTVT didn't know she had been a child radio star. She had her own radio show at age 4. She made several appearances at the Grand Ole Opry, toured with jazz greats including the Woody Herman Orchestra and the Tex Beneke Band and even sang at President Harry Truman's inauguration.
"She didn't brag about those things," said Alan Wendt, who worked with Mrs. Colmenares at Ch. 13 for many years. "They were part her credentials, but she didn't talk about them."
Perhaps most significantly, few people knew Mrs. Colmenares had battled lupus for decades. It was lupus, an immune system disorder in which antibodies become overactive and attack healthy tissue, that claimed Mrs. Colmenares' life on Sunday. She is survived by her husband, Nicholas F. Colmenares; her son and daughter, two brothers and a sister.
Mrs. Colmenares, who was born Patricia Edwards, grew up In North Carolina, and was something of a musical prodigy. She first sang on the radio at age 3.
"I started out singing these songs my mother taught me, mountain ballads, Irish folk songs," she once said.
Professionally, she was known as "Little Patsy Edwards." She landed her first television job when she was 12, and worked in television while she was a student at the University of North Carolina and later while she taught high school.
In 1969, she moved to Tampa with her husband, a prominent oral surgeon. In the early 1970s, local television was still very much dominated by men. When women were on the air, they were "weather girls," or they hosted cooking segments or exercise shows.
Mrs. Colmenares didn't do hard news on Pulse Plus!, focusing instead on interviews and entertainment. But she still managed to impress her news-oriented co-workers with her substance and her professionalism.
"She knew everybody, and she was committed to getting people on TV who had a good cause and needed a voice," Wendt said. "She always knew what was going on in town before the word was on the street."
She also had a knack for improvisation, and her years of experience helped give the live, hour-long, five-day-a-week show a more professional look.
"She could converse on the air with someone after reading just a couple of paragraphs of background about them." Wendt said. "That's a real gift and a talent. And if you missed a cue she was always right there, and she picked it up so it looked seamless to the viewer."
Her singing also helped the show through some rough spots. It wasn't unusual for a scheduled guest to be late or not show up. Producers never worried too much, Wendt said, because they could always get Pat to fill the segment with a song.
After she left television, Mrs. Colmenares started a new career in real estate. She worked with a diverse group of wealthy clients, including Mike Tyson, Justin Timberlake, Paul Bilzerian, George Steinbrenner and several New York Yankees players.
"She was as enthused about her business as she had been about all her careers earlier in her life," said Bob Glaser, president of Smith and Associates.
"There's a large real estate community out there and only a very few make it to the pinnacle, and she did that.
"That's a tribute to her professionalism and her personality."