She grew up in a chicken farm, but Dr. Pat Manning was never chicken about giving generously of her time, talent and treasure to her community.

“Her impact on this community was so profound,” said Dr. Yvette Boodhoo of her friend, who passed away May 26 at age 91.

As the young mother of a first grader, Manning went back to school to earn a doctorate, a degree that led to a long career in education.

As a teacher at Mims Elementary in 1966, Manning came face-to-face with racism, teaching children of NAACP members alongside kids whose parents belonged to the Ku Klux Klan.

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Dr. Pat Manning, center, poses with Dr. Ravindran Palaniyandi and Ambika Ravindran during a 2018 event benefiting the Women’s Center. (Photo: Amanda Stratford / FLORIDA TODAY)

“One time, during a break, I was in the front office and a guy came in,” said Manning years later. “He said, ‘I want to know where Mrs. Manning is,’ and he flopped a gun on the counter. I was sure as heck not going to tell him, ‘I’m Mrs. Manning.”

A cross was burned on her front yard, but that did not deter Manning.

“John and Pat Manning were the only two white faces at the graveside of (civil rights activists) Harry T. & Harriette Moore on the anniversary of their Christmas Day murder,” said Boodhoo.

The Moores died when a bomb that had been planted under the bedroom floor of their tiny wooden cottage explored Christmas Day, 1951. They were the first martyrs of the civil rights movement.

Manning would go on to be on the board of directors of the Moore Center, which raises awareness of how dear true freedom can be.

“My husband, too, was very much into racial equality,” Manning once said. “It was just part of our way of life.”

Manning also taught at Parkway Elementary, where across the street is now an adult daycare center for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Manning, who witnessed her parents’ decline with the disease, was instrumental in the creation of the facility.

The street in front of the facility was named Dr. Pat Manning Lane in her honor. 

From the public schools, Manning went on to teach at a public university, Florida Technological University, the precursor of the University of Central Florida. When she started, the small campus was amidst cow pastures, and her trek down State Road 50 included crossing wooden bridges vandals favored for burning.

She left as professor emeritus after a decades-long career that including lecturing around the world. She passed through the “Bamboo Curtain” to lecture in China, one of the first educators to do so. 

“She supported so many women, I was among them, as we needed guidance in starting PhD programs,” said Boodhoo.

She was a staunch supporter of the Women’s Center, knowing well how deep the roots of domestic violence can grow. During her teaching days at Mims, she was friends with a young teacher who would often carry bruises with her to work and was eventually murdered by her husband.

In her university career, a student of Manning’s also died from violence in the home.

While on the board at Parrish Medical Center, a hospital employee suffered the same fate.

With the help of volunteers like Manning, the Women’s Center was able to create a shelter where women in North Brevard can find safe haven from domestic violence. 

For many years, she lent her strong voice to the board of Parrish Medical Center, as well as to Aging Matters in Brevard, and gave countless hours to the charitable projects of the Pilot Club. 

“Pat’s dry wit and direct manner of speaking added spice to many Aging Matters Board meetings, and her insight, intelligence, and generosity helped further our missions,” wrote board member Bob Stover.

Manning knew everyone in Titusville and everyone in Titusville knew Manning. A dash to the grocery store could turn into a whole afternoon of catching up, because no one was ever a stranger for long when Manning was around.

At Tea World, where Pat was a frequent guest, her friends knew to anticipate a lively and lovely conversation whenever Manning was there. 

“This exceptional woman was never hesitant to talk about growing up on a chicken farm,” said Boodhoo.

Manning felt her early years cleaning chicken poop prepared her well for life, which she half-jokingly noted had an abundance of shoveling needed.

Story by: Florida Today

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