January 25th, 1930 – January 29th, 2024
Blanche “Penny” Prendergast was born in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania on January 25th, 1930, the first child of Blanche Cook and Lawrence Prendergast. Penny passed away surrounded by family at her home in New Canaan just days after her 94th birthday. She will be terribly missed.
Penny was a dear friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother. She was an outstanding athlete, teacher, and coach; a savvy financial investor who could be found pouring over Morningstar Investor reports; and an avid reader of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist. She loved playing tennis, gardening, and walking her dogs Zoey, Peggy, and LuLu at Waveny and Irwin Park. Penny never missed one of her grandchildren’s track meets or field hockey games and loved spending time with her family. She was a strong, principled, supportive, and loving person who always had a positive outlook on life.
Penny grew up with her brother Richard in Ridley Township and attended Eddystone High School where she worked on the school newspaper, sang in the Glee Club, and excelled at both basketball and field hockey. Penny’s coach at Eddystone, described Penny, only 5’2”, as a “wee mite” with blue eyes and curly hair always hitting a ball around a field or dribbling on a court. Penny was a top student, receiving a scholarship to attend Westchester State Teacher’s College where she majored in Health and Physical Education. While attending Westchester, she was Senior Class Secretary, Women’s Sports Editor for the school paper, Chair of the Senior Class Activities committee, and played for the high-level Panther’s inter-club women’s field hockey team. Her junior year, she was selected to represent Westchester in the All-College hockey tournament and was also the subject of a movie the college made called, “Penny Goes to College.” After graduation in 1951, Penny started her first job as a physical education teacher at Ridley Township High School. She made an immediate impact with her girls’ basketball team going undefeated in their first year. In 1954, Penny was selected to play on the U.S. Women’s field hockey touring team. She was named first team for two years, competing in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, the Fiji Islands, and Hawaii.
In 1956, Penny married George Powell, an RPI engineer and lacrosse player, and settled in Malvern, Pennsylvania. George and Penny enjoyed playing golf and skiing in the Poconos, and in 1964, the family moved with their three children – David, Joanne, and Nancy – to Dallas, Texas. As Penny never learned to swim, she threw her children into swimming lessons which quickly evolved into competitive-level swim teams. Penny enjoyed listening to pop music on the radio while driving carpool to swim practice, sometimes twice a day, and on weekends, she drove to swim meets all over the Southwest. Penny played competitive tennis, both singles and doubles, at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas. Known for her net play and killer drop shot, she was often seen out running errands in her tennis skirt.
In 1968, Penny began teaching at The Greenhill School and focused on developing women’s field hockey across the greater Dallas/Ft. Worth area. In 1971, she used her respected position within the U.S. Field Hockey Association to bring the German and U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey teams to Greenhill School. For many people in Dallas, this was the first time they had ever seen the sport. Each summer, Penny took Dallas area high school players to Ursinus College in Pennsylvania for high-level hockey camps. Penny was the first female coach and Director of Girls’ Athletics at Greenhill. Her teams captured numerous conference championships, but more importantly, Penny was a trailblazer and a role model who inspired young women to participate in sports. The school reflected this by electing Penny a legacy Heart of the Hill hero on Founders’ Day in 2013.
From 1975-77, Penny lived in Tehran, Iran where her husband worked for Bell Helicopter International. During this time, she travelled to the Caspian Sea, Isfahan, Shiraz, Dubai, Bahrain, Egypt, Greece and Thailand. Upon returning to the U.S. and retiring from teaching, Penny worked for BSN Sports in corporate and institutional sales for many years, and was invited to be an equipment official for men’s and women’s field hockey at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. In 2000, Penny moved to New Canaan to be closer to family. She lived in Oenoke Condominiums and was active in the homeowner’s association, serving in several board positions, including Vice-President and President. Penny continued playing competitive tennis, often at Mead Park, right up to the age of 89.
Penny is survived by her three children – David Powell in Los Angeles with partner, Dan Montijo; Joanne Powell in New Canaan with husband, Bob Spangler and children Wyatt, Henry and Eva; and, Nancy Powell in Victoria, British Columbia with husband Peter Ciceri and children Caitlin and Anna.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Penny’s memory to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, Senior Paw Project.
For online condolences please visit www.hoytfuneralhome.com.