Dr. Maria Pane has spent years glowing about her former classmate Whitney Houston. Her 1981 yearbook from Mount Saint Dominic Academy in Caldwell, NJ shows a smiling teen.
"Whitney Houston was a true legend and someone I'm truly proud to call a friend of mine," said Dr. Pane.
Dr. Pane, now a neonatal physician at GBMC in Towson, shared homeroom, physical education, and French classes with Houston.
She remembers her most as humble, considering her mom is gospel singer Sissy Houston and aunt is Dionne Warwick.
"I did not find out any of this until somewhere late into freshman year, and I have to say it's because Whitney was extremely unpretentious. She was very kind. She was loving. And she was an ordinary high school girl, just like all of us," said Dr. Pane.
But Houston was beginning to set herself apart from the 79 other girls in her class.
"Whitney Houston was modeling for Seventeen Magazine. It was every girls dream in our high school to be like Whitney Houston. That's how we knew her. She was beautiful," said Dr. Pane.
Along with the rest of the world, Dr. Pane watched Houston's hit music climb the charts. Her acting, in the movie "The Bodyguard" is what comes to mind for fans in Baltimore.
"Bodyguard brought everybody together. I don't care what color you was, it brought you together. You felt that in your heart," said Shandia Brandon, a Houston fan.
"Well that's like one of her biggest hits, everybody knows it, and she had so much emotion in that song it's amazing," said Jaymee Zdanek, a Houston fan.
The death of Whitney Houston means Dr. Pane will never get her wish to have the superstar return to their high school for an upcoming reunion.
"My hope and my dream was that one day Whitney would come back to our class reunion and sing for all of us. I know that won't happen here on earth but maybe someday in heaven we'll have the opportunity to hear the beautiful Whitney Houston sing again," said Dr. Pane.
Dr. Pane kept in touch with Houston through Facebook, but she did not add any details about the years of drug addiction and her troubled marriage.
Her memories will stay in Caldwell, New Jersey where the young Houston was shaping her life.