Virginia Dare Love, 79, worked on campaigns of GOP candidates

October 27, 2003|By Michael Stroh | Michael Stroh,SUN STAFF

Virginia Dare Love, a quiet but powerful behind-the-scenes force in the state's Republican Party for more than three decades, died Friday at her home in Redington Beach, Fla. Mrs. Love was 79 and died of complications from a stroke, her family said.

From Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign to Roger B. Hayden's successful 1990 bid for Baltimore County executive, Mrs. Love worked vigorously to get Republicans -- famous and not so famous -- elected to office.

"Virginia was sort of the backbone of the state's Republican Party," said Louise Gore, a former Republican state senator and gubernatorial candidate. "She was the one who everybody turned to for advice."

Prized as much for her organizational skills as for her political knowledge of the state, Mrs. Love was a tall, quiet woman with striking good looks and a noticeable Southern drawl. Her polished exterior, however, concealed a surprisingly steely and determined resolve, those who knew her say.

"She was the only woman that I was a little in awe of," said Joseph W. Alton Jr., who served as Anne Arundel county executive between 1965 and 1974, a run of election victories he says was partially due to Mrs. Love's help.

"I can't tell you the role she played in my personal success," he said. "I never saw a woman work so hard for the things she believed in."

Over the years, Mrs. Love's roles in various campaigns ranged from being the one who gave volunteers their marching orders to ensuring that thank-you letters were sent out after a speech.

"She knew how to plan," said former Republican Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, who tapped Mrs. Love to help manage several of her campaigns for office.

She was also routinely sought out by Republicans who were trying to decide whether to run for office. "She understood the state better than anybody I'd ever known," said Mrs. Gore, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1974 with Mrs. Love as her campaign manager. "Everybody wanted her to work for them."

When she joined a campaign, Mrs. Love was content to work in the background. "Virginia never laid claim to titles," said Mr. Hayden, who with Mrs. Love's help won the Baltimore County executive race in 1990, one of two Republicans in the past 40 years to do so.

Born and educated in Jackson, Ala., Virginia Allen enrolled in nursing school in Montgomery after high school. It was in Montgomery that she met her future husband, Baltimore-native Arthur M. Love Jr. The two were married in 1944, just before Mr. Love, who was in the Army, was shipped off to Europe.

The couple settled in Anne Arundel County after World War II. While her husband built a career as an architect, Mrs. Love worked to raise her growing family. But she also was increasingly restless.

"My dad didn't approve of wives earning money," said son Arthur M. Love III of Churchton. "It wasn't until she got involved in politics that she was able to find something fulfilling."

Mrs. Love's husband died in 1990. Afterward, said her son, politics no longer seemed to be as interesting to her. "She lost her spark," he said. Mrs. Love moved to Florida in 1995.

A service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at John M. Taylor Funeral Home, 147 Duke of Gloucester St. in Annapolis.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Love is survived by another son, Christopher B. Love of Redington Beach; a daughter, Nancy A. Love of Redington Beach; two brothers, Jack McVay and Gene McVay, both of Jackson, Ala.; and two grandsons.

Sun staff writer Hanah Cho contributed to this article.

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