Mary F. Garland, 68, South Baltimore activist who fought highway plan

October 23, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Mary Frances Garland, a South Baltimore community activist who fought for neighborhood recognition and raised her voice against highways and high-rises, died of a brain tumor Sunday at Stella Maris Hospice at Mercy Medical Center. She was 68 and lived on Webster Street.

She battled in the 1960s and 1970s against a planned interstate highway that threatened to cut through parts of Federal Hill, South Baltimore and the Sharp-Leadenhall neighborhoods. She also criticized a suspension bridge that would have cut diagonally across the Inner Harbor, cutting it in half.

In later years, she fought and rallied community opposition to utility rate increases in hearings before the state Public Service Commission and, most recently, took on the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"She could be a back-breaker," said Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who was mayor when the highway plans were hotly contested. "She called me all the time. I liked and respected her. She stood up for her people."

Born in Baltimore and raised on Riverside Avenue, she attended St. Mary Star of the Sea parochial school. She was a 1952 graduate of Seton High School and earned a degree from Loyola College.

Before retiring several years ago, she was executive secretary for the psychiatry department of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She worked at the school for 26 years.

"She was a most devoted and committed secretarial person and a good friend of mine," said Dr. Paul McHugh, former Hopkins psychiatrist-in-chief. "She really helped maintain a high level of interaction with the patients as they waited to see the psychiatrists -- and were often in very great distress emotionally."

Miss Garland was a past president of the Congress of Peninsula Organizations and of the South Baltimore Community Council. She was later a member of the Mayor's Task Force for the Redevelopment of the South Baltimore Waterfront.

About a decade ago, she unsuccessfully fought construction of HarborView, the residential high-rise built on a pier at Key Highway near Cross Street. "No matter where you go, you can see it. It's a monstrosity," she told The Sun in a 1998 interview. "It has no relationship to anything here at all."

Despite her strong feelings about HarborView, Miss Garland remained unshakable in her support of the old neighborhood.

"It's an irritant," she said of the high-rise. "But there's much more in South Baltimore than the old Beth Steel shipyard. My friends, neighbors and church are here."

"She combined a gentle style with a sharp mind and a great deal of tenacity," said lawyer David L. Hankey, a neighbor and former community official. "The measure of her success was, in part, her way with city officials. They all liked her and respected her a great deal. She would fight on issues. She would never fight on personalities."

In the 1980s, Miss Garland testified at hearings before the Public Service Commission in favor of lower utility rates. This year, she spoke at a South Baltimore Roman Catholic church in defense of a pastor who was being removed from the community.

In her free time, Miss Garland made clothing for her nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church, 1419 Riverside Ave., where she was a Eucharistic minister and lector.

She is also survived by two brothers, James P. Garland of Cockeysville and William A. Garland of Arlington, Va.

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