Florence Bain's legacy Senior center's namesake enjoyed second career as advocate for elderly.

March 03, 1997

TO GAIN APPRECIATION of Florence L. Bain's impact on Howard County's elderly, visit the senior center named in her honor. You might see one of the most experienced big bands you'll ever hear, the Goldenaires, rehearsing a Benny Goodman number while 75-year-old Elsie Waters kicks up her heels -- literally -- waist high.

Or you might see seniors engaged in aerobics, wood shop, painting, computers, ceramics and tap dancing. Or you might hear them swapping stories about the old days and their impressions on what we've gained and lost over the years. Life goes on at the Florence Bain Senior Center. Its namesake, who died at age 101 last week, would have had it no other way.

Mrs. Bain did some of her best work in her golden years, laying the groundwork for the facility that bears her name and helping to establish programs and facilities for the county's oldest residents.

Her early years were not without excitement: She had brushes with literary genius and political power. She started her work life with her sister, running a secretarial business that had among its clients a struggling writer named F. Scott Fitzgerald. She also served as a secretary for Cabinet officers in President Warren G. Harding's administration.

After her retirement and her husband's death, she moved to Columbia and saw that the young community's architects had not planned well enough for the elderly. It did not matter that she was already well past her 70th birthday; she spent the next 16 years as Howard County's strongest advocate for senior citizens.

Mrs. Bain convinced Columbia developer James W. Rouse to reserve space for the community's first senior center. Mr. Rouse provided land on Beaverkill Road in the Harper's Choice village center. The building opened in 1983. It welcomes about 150 visitors daily, the busiest of the county's 11 senior centers.

The tireless worker became chairwoman of Howard County's Commission on Aging at the still youthful -- for her -- age of 72. She also organized the county chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Countians young and old can be grateful that Mrs. Bain never believed that old age alone should halt a full and productive life.

All residents owe her a great deal.

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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