Neighborhoods mourn loss of the McCoys

January 06, 1994|By JACQUES KELLY

The bell in the stone tower at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church tolled yesterday morning for a man named Robert McCoy. Just a week earlier, the same bronze bell sounded through the cold winter air recalling the life of his wife, Lynne.

Robert McCoy died Jan. 2 of a lingering liver ailment. Lynne McCoy was the real estate agent who was slain Dec. 21 as she showed a prospective customer a home. Her husband's death had been anticipated; hers was not. Her loss is spoken of daily from house to house throughout the West Baltimore neighborhoods where the McCoys were so much a part of the landscape.

"A parishioner called me to say she'd seen the police and the commotion and learned that Lynne had been killed. I went with them to Bob's house to tell him what had happened. He was weak, sick, but remained composed, not at all vindictive. He showed an amazing strength," said the couple's pastor, the Rev. Thomas Kryder-Reid, the rector of St. Bartholomew's on Edmondson Avenue.

It is Edmondson Avenue that separates the two normally placid Baltimore neighborhoods of Ten Hills and Hunting Ridge. The McCoys had sold dozens of homes in each area.

Was there a person on Dryden Drive or Rokeby, Woodside, Nottingham or Briarclift roads who hadn't known the McCoys?

Was it not Lynne McCoy who many years ago sang in the choir of Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church and who crossed Edmondson Avenue and joined her husband at St. Bartholomew's? Her natural soprano voice filled its nave with holy song for 30 years.

"In a neighborhood full of big oak trees, Lynne McCoy was among the greatest," said Mary Stuart, an Old Orchard Road resident and friend.

The McCoys lived in Ten Hills and Mrs. McCoy died just across Edmondson Avenue in Hunting Ridge. Both communities are solidly residential, their streets dipping around the Gwynns Falls Valley hills. On a cold January day, little deposits of snow cling to the slate roofs on the old stone, brick and shingle homes that impart such a remarkable feeling of permanency and stability.

People naturally have been talking about the issues of violence and fear, talking about Lynne and Bob and their lives.

"When a tragedy like this occurs, we naturally question whether we are putting ourselves and our children at risk by living in the city," Stuart said. "As one who works with health statistics, I can tell you this: You can't run away from death. For most of us in Hunting Ridge and Ten Hills, the current epidemic of violence, horrifying as it is, has very little impact on the probable cause and time of our death.

"If you move out of the city, it will, on average, have very little impact on your life expectancy. Lynne was the exception. She was not average in the way she lived her life and she was not average in the cause of her death."

"I see Lynne in her garden with her azaleas, her camelias, her dogwoods, her rhododendrons. She loved gardening. She was always digging up something and giving it away so that someone else's garden could grow better," said Alan Lane, a neighbor and fellow choir member.

"She was a very gifted musician. Her voice was a joy to hear. She was a glorious soprano. It was wonderful to hear if she was chanting a psalm, blending with the other singers, or projecting over the choir in a solo. You could hear her strong character in that voice," Lane said.

Heide Grundmann saw her as a firm influence in the 1970s when Ten Hills openly and willingly accepted its first black home buyers.

"Lynne strategically planned what was good for the community," Grundmann said. "She called people together -- people who believed in her word -- to prepare them for change. She explained that change, if people remained calm, would be fine. And of course it was."

"Bob McCoy had a passion for fairness. He fought segregationist practices in real estate. He brought a cool reason and perspective to the most difficult of circumstances," said Mr. Kryder-Reid.

Another neighbor and choir member, Norman Bowmaker, recalled the couple's long marriage and spiritual life: "Our grief is moving toward a comfort in our belief that Lynne and Bob have been reunited in a better place. Many of us believe that Lynne is rapidly building her new flower garden. We'll remember what she did in a brief life here and not how she left our planet."

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