Leila Draper Schwaab, an active churchwoman whose concern for others led to a lifetime of volunteerism, died Friday of pancreatic cancer at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson. The former longtime Homeland resident was 87.
A woman of seemingly endless energy and determination, Mrs. Schwaab volunteered for 30 years with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland and served on its board. In 1993, she was recognized as the organization's Volunteer of the Year.
Raised as a Christian Scientist -- relatives said she never forgot those roots -- she was confirmed into the Episcopal faith in 1948.
She was an active communicant for nearly 50 years of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in North Baltimore, where with her husband, H. Donald Schwaab, a lawyer who died in 1997, she taught in the church's Sunday school.
The couple worked for 25 years with the church's Food Project, collecting, packing and delivering food for the needy that was distributed by the Church of the Resurrection in East Baltimore.
"They never missed their Saturday, believing that their hands and hearts were needed to serve God by giving of themselves to others. She lived a life of service and gratitude," said a daughter, Donna Lee Schwaab Frisch of Ruxton.
In addition to teaching and working with the hungry, Mrs. Schwaab sang in the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer's choir, arranged altar flowers and washed and pressed the clergy's linens and robes.
She had been president of the Women's Council at the church and was active with the Diocese of the Episcopal Church of Maryland.
A woman of many interests, Mrs. Schwaab was in her 60s when she took an automobile mechanics course at Essex Community College to make minor repairs and change her car's oil.
When Mrs. Schwaab was in her 70s and 80s, it wasn't uncommon for her and her husband to walk 5 to 8 miles a day. They hiked annually in Switzerland until 1992 and took up aerobic dancing in the early 1990s.
Born Leila Draper Van Leer in Washington, she was a graduate of Central High School and earned her bachelor's degree from Sweet Briar College in 1933 and Simmons Business College in 1934.
She moved to Baltimore and went to work as head buyer of children's clothes for Hochschild Kohn and Co.
Shortly after her 1938 marriage, her father-in-law, Harry Schwaab, died, and she left the department store to manage Schwaab's Confectionary Store, which her in-laws had established in 1924.
The Waverly store at Greenmount and 33rd Street, which was known for its homemade cakes, ice cream and candies, was a favorite of North Baltimore residents, including Jazz Age author F. Scott Fitzgerald when he lived at the Cambridge Arms apartments on North Charles Street.
"The hallmark of Leila Schwaab was faithful dedication to others, her family, friends and people who needed her caring devotion and steadfast love. She fought against injustice long before the civil rights movement. She taught her children to give each person dignity and to dedicate one's life to helping this world be a better place," said Mrs. Frisch.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.
In addition to Mrs. Frisch, she is survived by another daughter, Linda Schwaab Hodges of Kinston, N.C.; a brother, Anthony Wayne Van Leer of Sherwood Forest, Anne Arundel County; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.