Jean R. Graybeal, 80, worked to save historic Harford County sites, buildings

April 24, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Jean R. Graybeal, a lifelong Harford County resident who was active in historic preservation and civic affairs, died Sunday of a stroke at her Bel Air residence. She was 80.

Descended from one of Harford County's oldest and most distinguished families, Mrs. Graybeal was interested in historic buildings and played a hand in preserving many of them.

She was a founder of the Liriodendron Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that runs Liriodendron, the 100-acre estate that was once the summer home of Dr. Howard A. Kelly, one of the "Big Four" who founded Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Kelly had purchased the estate near Bel Air in the 1890s.

Mrs. Graybeal was a member of the Courthouse Remodeling Committee, which restored the elegant courthouse in Bel Air that was built in the late 1850s. She also helped rescue and preserve the Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace, which dated to 1827 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

"She was a grand individual who was very dedicated to everything she believed in," said James T. Wollon, a noted preservation architect and architectural historian who lives in Havre de Grace.

George F. Harrison, a lifelong friend who owns Harrison's Paint Center in Bel Air, described her as a "diminutive and very feisty lady" who was "outspoken and made her opinions known."

He said she was "a very much loved and respected member of the community" who was "very protective of our environment and historic buildings and was always very distressed when an old building came down. She used to say, `We shouldn't allow such destruction of our heritage.' "

Christopher Weeks, an author who lives in Bolton Hill, said, "She was a well-rounded person who was interested in both the arts and politics."

She was a founder of the Bel Air Beautification Committee and had been its chairwoman. She helped plan Bynum Run and Howard Park and was a member of the Friends of the Library, where she tutored in literacy programs.

She was a member of the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women and the Garden Club of Harford County.

Mrs. Graybeal was an avid tennis player and enjoyed collecting antiques. She had been a co-owner with Mary Fulton of Boxwood Antiques in Bel Air.

She was born Theresa Jean Reed, the daughter of Charles Hopkins Reed and Annie Lawrence Worthington Reed. Her maternal grandfather purchased the Aegis newspaper in Bel Air, which had been founded in 1856. Another ancestor ran an Underground Railroad station on the banks of the Susquehanna River that helped escaping slaves from the South make their way to Canada.

Mrs. Graybeal was a 1935 graduate of Bel Air High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., in 1939. She married Eugene Graybeal in 1941.

She was a member of the Little Falls Meeting and a founder of the Northern Chesapeake Unitarian Universalist Society.

A memorial service was held yesterday evening at Liriodendron.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Graybeal is survived by a son, John Graybeal of Mountain View, Calif.; three daughters, Judy Eagle of Bel Air, Laurie Graybeal of Charlotte, N.C., and Ann Graybeal of Berkeley, Calif.; and three grandchildren.

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