TRAVERSE CITY — Friends and colleagues will remember Patty Anton’s passion, her kindness and her oft-shared mantra of “Bigger, better, stronger.”

It’s a philosophy the former Traverse City Children’s House Montessori teacher brought to the Dominican Republic five years ago, when she headed south full-time to guide a budding Montessori program in the Caribbean nation.

Those efforts were blossoming when Anton, 63, was murdered earlier this week.

“It’s a shock. It just doesn’t feel real,” said Colleen Christensen, Children’s House director of operations.

Anton was found gagged and bound in her home in what Dominican Republic authorities suspect was a robbery-turned-murder, the New York Post and several other outlets reported Wednesday. Several valuables — including a television, a laptop and Anton’s cellphone — were missing from the apartment in the province of Puerto Plata, where Anton lived alone.

Dominican Republic news outlets report Anton died of strangulation.

The matter remains under investigation and no arrests had been made as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a release from Dominican Republic National Police. An autopsy will be conducted in Santiago.

“Her death is a tragedy,” brother-in-law Thomas Anton wrote on Facebook. “She was kind to everyone, always, without exception.”

Anton, a longtime educator, worked as a teacher and administrator at 3 Mariposas Montessori Elementary School in Cabarete, according to friend and former colleague Michele Shane.

“She just had the biggest, most kind heart,” said Shane, Children’s House head of school. “She believed in every child’s potential, whether those were the children she touched here at the Children’s House or the beautiful little children she was working with down in the Dominican.”

The pair kept in touch through Anton’s summertime visits to Traverse City — Shane says she never passed up the chance to get breakfast or lunch with her friend.

Anton’s 3 Mariposas profile notes she spent a large portion of her life traveling and volunteering before settling down in Michigan. She studied at Central Michigan University and then pursued qualifications for Montessori teaching.

Shane said Anton, Italian-born and proud of it, was foundational to Traverse City’s Montessori culture. She first came aboard in 2002 to help start the school’s upper elementary program.

“We knew she would be a perfect fit,” said Christensen, head of school when Anton was hired. “She was able to connect at a very personal level with everyone. She was open-minded and kind and generous with her time and spirit.”

Anton leaves a lofty legacy.

“The children adored her and still come back to the school to look at her pictures on the wall,” Christensen said. “Patty, she made us laugh. She held us all accountable. And really, she brought out the best in everyone she touched.”

Anton leaves behind a husband, three children and a grandson.

Attempts to contact her family were unsuccessful Wednesday afternoon.

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