Patricia Schlee, Minneapolis North High’s 1943 homecoming queen, knew exactly what she wanted to do after graduation.
Schlee enrolled in McConnell Modeling School and before long, she was walking the runways in glamorous fashion shows for Dayton’s Oval Room, Schlampp Furs and Young-Quinlan Department Store.
Her modeling talent also garnered her jobs at trade shows and conventions, with Schlee winning a bathing beauty contest at a builder’s show in the Minneapolis Auditorium. “Patty had confidence,” recalled her sister, Gloria “Gerry” McKay. “She was funny, outgoing — and kind.”
The always stylish Schlee died on Dec. 13 at age 91. “Even when she was 90, she cared about how she looked and what she was wearing,” said son, Gregory Schlee.
Schlee was born in 1925 in north Minneapolis, the oldest of seven children, and attended Ascension Catholic School.
The striking brunette resembled 1940s movie stars Hedy Lamarr and Linda Darnell, McKay said. “We all played instruments in the school band at parades,” she said. “But Patty was always up front, twirling a baton.”
After graduating from McConnell, Schlee also taught makeup application, modeling and etiquette classes to aspiring fashionistas at Patricia Stevens Modeling School and Maxine Dear in Minneapolis in the late 1940s.
“When she modeled at the Oval Room, they would give her clothing to keep or at a large discount,” said daughter Linda Strater. “It was an exciting time for her.”
The ambitious beauty was determined to turn her fashion modeling into TV work, and completed television modeling classes at the Twin City Television Lab in Minneapolis, where she learned how to maximize lighting, apply TV makeup and master close-ups.
In 1949, Schlee married her North High sweetheart Durwood Schlee when the U.S. Marine returned home after World War II.
As a wife, Schlee channeled her creative energy into her family and helped Durwood, an engineer, design the house the couple built in 1957 on Crystal Lake in Robbinsdale.
While raising her two children, Schlee modeled in fashion shows at Ascension Catholic Church and other churches in the neighborhood.
Strater remembers her mother leaving the house for an Easter fashion show dressed in a white floppy hat and black-and-white polka dot dress accented with a black patent leather belt and white gloves.
“She was the epitome of beauty,” recalled Strater, “and always so elegant.”
On the home front, Schlee was an accomplished hostess, entertaining family and friends in her spotless Robbinsdale lakeside abode.
Although she previously had a successful modeling career, “once she became a mother, that was her total focus, and her family took center stage,” Gregory said.
In later years, Schlee and her husband took up golfing and would take their boat to Gull Lake in northern Minnesota. The two were together until Durwood’s death in 2013.
“She was loving and compassionate, and she had a smile that would melt your heart,” Strater said. “She was beautiful both inside and out.”
In addition to children Gregory and Linda, Schlee is survived by sisters Gloria, Mary Ann, Maureen (Mike), Martha; sister-in-law, Ione Schlee; and grandsons, Brent, Robert and Patrick. A service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 23 at Ascension Catholic Church, 1723 Bryant Av. N., Minneapolis. Visitation 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 22 at Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel, 3888 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale.