Jean LaVine Speed, 76, flower arranger for Walters

December 24, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Jean LaVine Speed -- an artful arranger of flowers, museum volunteer and accomplished French cook -- died yesterday at Johns Hopkins Hospital of complications of lung cancer. The Poplar Hill resident was 76.

"She was a dynamo. She had great flair and produced spectacular results whether it was with flowers or food," said Bill O'Brien, gift shop manager at Walters Art Gallery.

Mrs. Speed volunteered at the gallery and served on its Women's Committee for 30 years, arranging scores of flower displays for the exhibit halls.

Mrs. Speed was an accomplished cook who combined an affection for French cuisine with an interest with travel in that country. During her 51-year marriage to Dr. William G. Speed 3rd -- an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine -- she and her husband made 26 trips to France.

They toured the countryside, cities and villages, the restaurants and art museums.

"No one ever turned down her invitations to eat," said Dr. Speed, JTC a migraine headache specialist.

From 1977 to 1979, Mrs. Speed served as president of the Walters Women's Committee. During her long affiliation with the museum, she improved its gift shop and made it an important revenue source for the Mount Vernon institution.

"She had a passion for this place and an interest in its well-being that looked to the future," said Joy Heyrman, Walters development director. "She was a great volunteer who conveyed an energy to those of us who work on the staff."

Mrs. Speed became a Walters volunteer in the 1960s and soon thereafter began styling flowers in large groupings on pedestals placed at the foot of a large marble staircase.

Her arrangements -- and those of her fellow volunteers -- changed weekly and were much admired by visitors to the museum. In later years, she participated in the gallery's "Art Blooms" programs.

Born in Stillwater, Minn., the former Jean LaVine attended schools there, graduated from Duke University and was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. She then moved to New York, where she was a portfolio manager for Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co.

She was a volunteer with the Learning Bank and Paul's Place Outreach Center in Southwest Baltimore.

Mrs. Speed was also a board member of Young Audiences of Baltimore, a group that exposes children to music. In the 1960s, she had been a board member and board secretary of the Bryn Mawr School and was president of the school's parents' association.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Leslie Speed of Baltimore; two sons, William G. Speed 4th, of Rocky Hill, Conn. and David Speed, of Barrington, R.I; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/24/98

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