Catherine Thom Parsons, 93, writer and portrait painter

March 30, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Catherine T. Parsons, a portrait artist and an author who drew on her prominent family's history for subject matter, died March 14 of heart failure at William Hill Manor in Easton. She was 93.

Under the pen name of Catherine Thom Bartlett, Mrs. Parsons wrote three books. Two were memoirs, one based on her parents' life at the turn of the century and the other about growing up in Roland Park. She also was known for her portraits in oil and her woodcuts, which were exhibited in Baltimore and Easton galleries.

She moved in 1970 from North Baltimore's Woodbrook area to Osprey Cove, a home she and her husband built on the Tred Avon River in 1964. Since 1990, she had lived at William Hill Manor.

Mrs. Parsons was a great-great-niece of Johns Hopkins, the merchant prince and philanthropist, and was the daughter of Hunter Mayo Thom, president of the Baltimore Tobacco Leaf Co., and Helen Hopkins Thom.

One of her books, "Two Links in a Chain," chronicled her parents' lives in the Baltimore of the fading Victorian era and emerging Edwardian period. wrote that it was "the casual personal glimpses of the couple's lifestyle at home that give Mrs. Bartlett's biography its warmth and charm."

In the book, Mrs. Parsons revealed that her mother enjoyed an occasional cigar but was worried about what others might think.

"My dear," Hunt Thom said, "you should set the style, not follow it. If you like 'em, smoke 'em. Enjoy yourself."

Mrs. Parsons, the eldest of three sisters, wrote a reminiscence "Three Under Three," about growing up in Roland Park, published in 1970.

Her first book, "My Dear Brother," was based on letters she found in her uncle's attic. She was interested first in the rare stamps, but became fascinated by the contents.

A 1955 review in The Sun said: "Starting on a Virginia plantation, the chronicle traces the plunge from gracious living to the real hardships and privations suffered during the Civil War."

Raised on Hillside Road in Roland Park, the former Catherine Thom was tutored at home and was a 1920 graduate of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. She made her debut that year at the Bachelors Cotillon.

She was listed in Who's Who of American Women and was a member of the National League of American Pen Women, Artists' Equity and the Easton Academy of Arts.

Her first marriage, to Joseph France, a partner in the law firm of Venable, Baetjer & Howard, ended in divorce. Her second husband, Robert Dixon Bartlett, died in 1960. Her third marriage, in 1968, was to Paul Parsons, who died in 1991.

Mrs. Parsons was a member of Third Haven Friends Meeting, 405 S. Washington St., Easton, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. April 19.

Mrs. Parsons is survived by two daughters, Catherine Hunt Harrison of Ruxton and Pembroke Frances Noble of Easton; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 3/30/96

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