Amelia B. Rogers, 87, designer of decorations for Christmas season

March 25, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Amelia B. Rogers, whose love of Christmas led her to create a custom-decorating business for the holiday, died of heart failure Friday at her Roland Park home. She was 87.

Born Amelia Foy Burrows in Baltimore and raised in Ten Hills, Mrs. Rogers was a graduate of Miss Crosby's School for Girls.

She worked for several years at the Hochschild-Kohn department store and Scarlett Seed Co. before her 1938 marriage to Philip O. Rogers Sr. Her husband, a Legg Mason senior vice president, died in 1993.

Mrs. Rogers had a wide-ranging interest in American antiques and the decorative arts, and since childhood had been enraptured by Christmas. She especially enjoyed making from scratch the decorations she placed in her home for the holiday season.

"I've always been a big Christmas person. I love decorating, baking and the general chaos of the season," she told The Sun in 1984. "I look forward to Christmas Eve, being with the grandchildren and sitting around the tree waiting for Santa Claus."

In 1976, Nancy Baker, a friend of her son's, was impressed by Mrs. Rogers' efforts.

"I wasn't going to be with my family that Christmas," Mrs. Baker told The Sun, for the same 1984 article, "and being with the Rogers and watching Amelia throw herself into decorating so impressed me that I suggested we start a business, thinking that there would be plenty of people who wanted quality decorations but had neither the skills nor the time to make them."

It was the beginning of Santa's Helpers, which by the next year had several dozen customers.

"After I get a phone call from a client, I go to their home and discuss with them what they'd like me to do. I suggest ideas. In some cases, they already know what they want or it's a repeat order from the previous year," Mrs. Rogers said in the 1984 article.

She based her designs on decorations that were popular during the 18th century in England, Annapolis and Williamsburg, Va. No job was too large or small, and the work ranged from front-door wreaths to mantels, single rooms and entire houses.

From her basement workshop filled with the aroma of fresh greens, using holly, boxwood, magnolia, ribbon, oasis and miles of roping, she painstakingly fashioned by hand the decorations prized by her customers. Specialties included boxwood kissing balls, holly arrangements and wreaths made of noble fir, which Mrs. Rogers described as the "Cadillac of my line."

Her son, Dr. Edward B. Rogers, a psychologist who lives in Ellicott City, recalled his mother's boundless seasonal joy.

"She made it completely magical. When we were children, we'd go to bed Christmas Eve and nothing was decorated. We'd come down the next morning and everything was decorated. There was also a huge Lionel train set that was set up and operating, too," Dr. Rogers said.

Though her health began failing in the early 1990s and she had been bedridden since 1995, Mrs. Rogers continued making decorations for several customers as recently as last Christmas, Dr. Rogers said.

Mrs. Rogers was a longtime volunteer and board member of the Maryland Children's Aid and Family Service Center. She also had volunteered at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Delaware.

She was a communicant and Altar Guild member of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where services will be held at 3:30 p.m. today.

In addition to her son, she is survived by three grandchildren. Another son, Philip O. Rogers Jr., died in 1980.

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