PORTLAND – Laura Pate was one of the first players to help bring the University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team national prominence in the early 1990s.

“It was uncommon for a girl to be as good as a guy,” her brother Michael Pate said.

As children, the two would play at a local basketball court.

“They’d see this little squirt girl,” he said, “and she would torch them.”

The skills she learned led her to win numerous honors, including First Team Little East Conference in 1989-90 and 1990-91, ECAC player of the year in 1991 and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Kodak All American.

“For her to (receive the Kodak award) in a tiny school in Maine is pretty good,” her brother said.

Ms. Pate died Sunday. She was 41.

Ms. Pate was heavily recruited out of Biddeford High School to play for Division I schools. She accepted a full scholarship to Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, and later transferred to USM.

After college, Ms. Pate began her career as a real estate appraiser in southern Maine. Most recently, she worked at Lewis Brothers Landscaping in Falmouth.

In July, she tackled a landscaping project at her sister’s home in Dayton.

“We had a blast out in my yard landscaping,” Lisa Pate-Barden said.

Ms. Pate helped Pate-Barden plant several hibiscus trees along a fence. Then, while her sister was out, Ms. Pate created two new flower beds for some plants that hadn’t been growing well.

“She said, ‘We’re going to make a misfit garden and they’ll be fine,’” Pate-Barden said. “She thought moving them over was going to work.”

Pate-Barden recalls her sister with dirt all over her face and knees, wearing a big smile.

“She just loved having fun,” she said.

Ms. Pate was planning on returning to school this winter and had recently completed studies at Mercy Hospital to become a medical assistant.

“She just wanted to do something else,” Pate-Barden said.

Ms. Pate had an adventurous nature, her sister said. She was diving into her family’s above ground pool at just 5 years old. She also loved scuba diving, kayaking, skiing, sky diving and traveling to Aruba and other places.

“She was usually always happy,” her sister said. “She just was full of spirit.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]