Anita Laurie Cushing, 93, teacher, librarian for Howard historical society

August 18, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Anita Laurie Cushing, a former English teacher who became the Howard County Historical Society's first librarian and shaped the heart of its collection, died Wednesday at the Vantage House retirement community in Columbia of a circulatory infection after suffering a stroke in April. She was 93 and had resided for almost 50 years on Church Road in Ellicott City.

In 1996, Mrs. Cushing was honored as the Maryland Library Association's outstanding volunteer for her work, said Mary K. Mannix of Rockville, who served as the society's library director for 11 years, until 2000.

The society had offered the new paid position of director to Mrs. Cushing in 1988, Ms. Mannix said, but she was entering her 80s and preferred to serve as the volunteer assistant librarian - which she did until 2000.

Philip M. Reitzel, a friend and volunteer, said Mrs. Cushing was a charter member of the society, founded in 1957. "She had no training as a librarian, but she had taught school," he recalled.

As the story goes, said Ms. Mannix, in 1963 Mrs. Cushing was told, "You know books, so you're the librarian," and became the society's first as it began to receive donations of books and papers that now number in the thousands.

"She established the collection," Ms. Mannix said. "The library really takes on the character of the librarian. The core of the collection today is based on Anita's collecting instinct and intuition. ... The fact that the collection is so good is due to Anita."

During the 1940s and 1950s, Mrs. Cushing wrote a home-forum column in the Christian Science Monitor and published about a dozen poems in the Ladies' Home Journal, said a daughter, Dr. Jane Crumlish, a pediatrician who lives in Dresden, N.Y.

She also performed one-woman plays for women's clubs, memorizing multiple parts, she said. "I have memories of her vacuuming the floor and reciting all the parts in different voices."

In October 1998, The Sun reported that Mrs. Cushing was honored for more than 25 years of service to the Howard County Historical Society library and for more than 50 years of service at St. John's Episcopal Church.

Born Anita Laurie in Pittsburgh in 1908, as a girl she traveled throughout much of North and South America with her parents, becoming fluent in Spanish. She graduated from Medford (Mass.) High School at age 16, and earned her bachelor of arts degree from Wheaton College in 1929. At her 60th college reunion, she was honored with a membership in its Phi Beta Kappa chapter, which had not existed when she earned her degree.

In 1967, Mrs. Cushing earned her master's degree in English literature from the University of Maryland, her daughter said. She taught English at Glenelg Country School for nine years, and also had held several office jobs and worked as an accountant at times.

Dr. Crumlish said her mother was "a very big supporter of Planned Parenthood" and helped to establish a sex-education program at Glenelg in the early 1970s. "She felt very strongly about that. She was willing to step up to the plate."

She was married in 1930 to Henry Stanley Cushing, who died in 1991.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 at St. John's Episcopal Church, 9120 Frederick Road in Ellicott City.

In addition to Dr. Crumlish, she is survived by a daughter, Deborah Phinney of Bolton Hill; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren, with a fourth due this month.

Memorial contributions may be made to the church, the historical society or Planned Parenthood.

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