Mercedes Linton Shriver, 41, artist who promoted environmental causes

February 17, 2003|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Mercedes Linton Shriver, an ardent environmentalist and an artist whose designer silk wraps are sold worldwide, died Wednesday of internal injuries after a fall down a cliff while hiking one of her favorite trails near her home in Saint-Barthelemy. She was 41 and had lived on the small Caribbean island in the French West Indies for about five years.

Born in Baltimore and known as Merc, Ms. Shriver was a graduate of Maryvale Preparatory School and studied art later at a variety of places, including the Maryland Institute College of Art, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Telluride AhHa School.

In 1999, Ms. Shriver told The Sun that she had been a painter since she was 16 and had always loved clothing. "Put those two together, and that's what you get," she said -- wearable fabrics that are as much like art as clothing.

She painted in oil and pastels, as well as making silk pareos, scarves and other wraps for her Mercedes Shriver Designs. "Mercedes' kaleidoscopic use of brilliant colors and her unique synthesis of the classic and the bohemian have attracted clients such as Madonna, Mariah Carey, Paulina Porizkova, Courtney Love, Sissy Spacek, and Maria Shriver," according to her Web site, which also promotes numerous environmental groups.

"She always volunteered her time" to such groups, said a sister, DeSales Linton, a civil-rights attorney and filmmaker in New York City. "She was not just one of those people who wrote a check."

"Merc was an activist for all things and people without a voice -- animals, the environment, and women. Like many highly sensitized women, however, she had a harder time finding a voice for herself," she said.

The family has established the Mercedes Linton Shriver Book Fund, at Dr. Lisa Najavits' Seeking Safety Program, a psychotherapy program for trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, at the Harvard Medical School, Ms. Linton said. The address is: McLean Hospital at the Harvard Medical School Development Office, 115 Mill St., Belmont, Mass. 02478-9106.

"Merc found the book so helpful in her life," Ms. Linton said. "The fund will provide Seeking Safety workbooks to program participants who couldn't otherwise afford them."

Ms. Shriver enjoyed hiking, bicycling and photography, and was a volunteer for Greenpeace, Earth First! and the San Francisco Coalition for the Protection of the Headwater Forests, among other groups, and she donated a percentage of the proceeds of her sales.

"It was art, the environment -- she was a very peaceful person," said her former husband, William H. Shriver III of Silver Spring. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1988.

"She was a free spirit, that's for sure," said longtime friend Patricia Howland Bond of Roland Park, who has Ms. Shriver's paintings on her walls and was wearing one of her silk scarves. "She was friendly, compassionate -- definitely a sensitive soul.

"She felt things deeply and she had a tremendous appreciation for color, beauty, nature, food," Ms. Bond said. "She was beautiful to look at, inside and out."

A memorial Mass will be offered at 1 p.m. Friday at Our Lady of Grace Church, 18310 Middletown Road, Parkton.

In addition to her sister, Ms. Shriver is survived by her 18-year-old son, William H. Shriver IV of Silver Spring; her mother, Marlene E. Barone of Roland Park; a grandmother, Doris Gordon of Lutherville; another sister, Stasia Linton of South Palm Beach, Fla.; and a brother, Thomas J. Linton III of Baltimore.

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