Preservation Volunteer Remembered Fondly

August 08, 1991|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

JoAn Stoll was as gracious as the historic Benson-Hammond House, where for decades she greeted tourists at the door, and as sweet as the hand-painted china she sold at the historical society's antique shop.

Six weeks after her death, her former Anne Arundel County Historical Society co-workers are realizing that the generous, dedicated volunteer may well be irreplaceable.

"She was probably one of the last of the great volunteers," said Beth Nowell, executive director of the society. "She never wanted anycredit; she shunned publicity. She just did her thing.

"She was extremely kind and gentle. Everything she did, she thought about the society," Nowell said.

The Historical Society was Stoll's passion, especially the Browse and Buy Shoppe, a collection of antique jewelry, china and furniture that she managed as a volunteer at the Benson-Hammond House.

"She made everybody feel at home. She had the sweetest disposition," said Cordelah Swanson, chairwoman of the Benson-Hammond House.

One of her contributions was warmth, a smile friends describe as radiant, and "the ability to appreciate other people more than anyone I've known," said her sister, Peg Pumphrey.

A gift Stoll helped create was the "picker check items," jewelry made of the solid brass tallies that county truck farmers gave migrant workers to keep track of bags and bushels turned in during a work-day. At the end of the day, the tallies were redeemed for money.

Ora Smith thoughtof making earrings, necklaces, key rings and other items from the picker check tallies, which bear the initials of the farmer distributing them. Stoll helped assemble and polish the jewelry. She also donated to the society all the picker checks from the farm of her grandfather, Franklin Newshaw.

The picker check items have netted the society more than $50,000, said Swanson.

The woman who became a drivingforce in county historic preservation didn't grow up here. Stoll wasborn in Washington and moved to New England when she was a toddler.

The two sisters were children of a Congregational minister, M. Walker Coe, in a home Pumphrey recalled as "the most satisfyingly happy place. My mother would let us fly, and my father would let us soar. They encouraged us in everything."

Both sisters returned to Anne Arundel County, where their grandparents lived, in 1947. JoAn had completed a physical therapy degree at Sargent College, part of Boston University. She returned to a variety of jobs in the postwar years, including proofreading and working as a telephone operator.

She married Robert Leslie Stoll in 1948, and two years later their son, Robin Coe Stoll, was born. Four years later, he was followed by a daughter, Rebecca Coe Stoll.

As soon as Stoll had some spare time, she devoted it to historical preservation, Pumphrey said.

Mary Calvert, whohelped found the historical society in 1962 and manages the originalBrowse and Buy at the society's Severna Park location, says Stoll was active from the society's inception.

"I'm telling you, she's going to be hard to replace. She was so dedicated and just an outstanding person," Calvert said.

Said Pumphrey, "We've always been interested in historical places and people and things. We love old things. It's just something our family has enjoyed: saving old things, treasuring old things."

As the daughter of Anna Willard Hammond, Stoll felt special interest in historic homes such as the Benson-Hammond House.

She collected everything, "but if it was tiny, she loved it best of all," her sister recalled.

She also found time to serve on many committees at Harundale Presbyterian Church, where she did "everything. Anything," Pumphrey said. "She could be busy without even looking busy. She never seemed rushed. Her life just flowed."

Stoll, who turned 65 in December, became seriously ill with liver cancer in June.

Her sudden death has left a hole in the hearts of those who loved her, said Pumphrey.

"She was a preservationist at heart, trying to save interesting and beautiful things so they wouldn't be lost forever," reflected her sister.

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