Daphne P. V. diBrandi, whose explosive racquetball shots echoed through the halls of the Downtown Athletic Club for a decade, died Thursday of cancer at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. Known to friends as "Penny," the champion player was 43.
Born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to missionary parents from Frederick, Ms. diBrandi returned with her family to Maryland when she was an infant. Her father, the Rev. Herman A. diBrandi, was the rector of the Church of the Nativity in Cedarcroft.
Ms. diBrandi graduated from St. Paul's School for Girls in 1976 and went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in literature from Deree-Pierce College in Athens, Greece. Later, she earned a master's degree in liberal arts from the Johns Hopkins University before going to work in the campus library.
For the past year, she had been a teacher at Valley Academy in Towson.
Among the longtime Bolton Hill resident's many passions, racquetball came to consume her about a decade ago, family and friends say. And with her usual tenacity, she learned the game well - so well that she was ranked the 18th-best player in the United States among women 25-and-over by Racquetball magazine last year.
"She was awesome," said her brother, Geoffrey C. diBrandi, 47, of Cupertino, Calif. "She was very fast and had a very good power shot. She was definitely a power player."
In 1998, Ms. diBrandi was crowned singles champion by the Maryland Washington Racquetball Association. The next year, the U.S. Racquetball Association awarded her the bronze medal in its consolidated national doubles competition after a series of games she played while suffering from what she thought was the flu.
A short time later, her illness was diagnosed as lung cancer.
"A hell of a player," recalled Sharon McNeill, her partner at the 1999 doubles championships. "She was a thin, little petite thing with a big old oversize racquet, and she was fierce. The men at the DAC feared her - the whole bunch of them. I don't know if any of them ever beat her."
Services for Ms. diBrandi will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. John's Episcopal Church - Huntingdon in Waverly, where she served on the vestry, followed by interment at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.
In addition to her brother, she is survived by her twin sons, Anthony E. and Alexander L. Wood, both of Baltimore, and another brother, Paris P. diBrandi of Conway, N.H.
She was divorced from Mark Wood in 1990.
Her family suggests that donations be made to Gilchrist Center, 6701 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21204 or to St. John's Episcopal Church - Huntingdon, 3001 Greenmount Ave., Baltimore 21218.