Lora Swartz, novelist, nursery school founder

June 16, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Lora Swartz, a novelist who founded a nursery school and operated child care centers during World War II, died Friday of cardiopulmonary arrest at her Hunt Valley residence. She was 92.

In 1928, she opened the Woodland Nursery School on Groveland Avenue and in 1932 established Pleasant Hill Camp near Owings Mills, which she operated until 1948 when the property was sold.

During World War II, she organized and directed Federal Child Service Centers in Baltimore County. Financed by the federal government, the centers cared for children 2 to 12 years old and provided housekeeping services for their parents, who were working in defense plants such as the Glenn L. Martin Co., which produced airplanes in Middle River, and Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant and shipyard.

Her son, Mano Swartz II of Hunt Valley, said, "Some of these centers provided 24-hour services in order for mothers to choose one of three shifts."

A self-taught writer, Mrs. Swartz wrote extensively about education and child care issues. She also wrote three novels under the pen name Ann Maturin.

In 1961, her first novel, "At Dawn Set Free," was on the Enoch Pratt Free Library's most-read list for 10 weeks.

As a child, she became interested in Greek mythology. After visiting the island of Crete and the palace at Knossos, she wrote "The Copper Clew," a novel about the Minotaur who is said to inhabit its ruins. Her final novel, "The Smallest Orb," was set in Maryland and told of the life experiences of twins Laurie and Andrea Keil.

Her son said that the central theme of her novels was "that man can't be beat if he makes up his mind not to be beat. They are hymns to self-determination."

Mrs. Swartz said of her writing, "I write with the hum of the world in my ears, the honk of migrating geese, the grumble of airplanes, the soft sweet whisperings of lovers, the murmur of the wind in the treetops, the raucous staccato of newspapers machine gunning ceaseless and senseless strife, man's bestialities and glories, his infinite and unending pain and loneliness and his small and transient joys."

The former Lora Wilfson was born and reared on Linden Avenue in West Baltimore. She was a 1919 graduate of Western High School and studied at Goucher College, the Johns Hopkins University and Towson State College.

In 1921, she married James Mano Swartz, whose family business, Mano Swartz Furs, was founded in 1889 by his grandfather. The firm was first located on Liberty Street in downtown Baltimore and moved to Lexington Street, Howard Street and finally to Towson. It closed last year.

Her husband died in 1977.

Other survivors include a daughter, Sally Marx of Potomac; seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Jimmy Swartz Foundation, 3620 Dustin Road, Burtonsville 20866.

Services were private.

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