Emily Shearn, 34, employee of health services provider

December 05, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Emily Shearn, who worked for Humanim, a mental health services provider, died Monday at her Columbia home. She was 34.

Miss Shearn, who had cerebral palsy and mental retardation as a result of a birth injury, was born in Stamford, Conn., and moved to Baltimore with her family in 1971.

"We were doing a kind of home therapy program called patterning that required help from other people," said her father, Allen Shearn, a professor of biology at the Johns Hopkins University. "We had no family in Baltimore nor did we know anyone at all.

"My wife went door to door in Mount Washington, where we lived, and asked our neighbors to help us. No one refused. Literally dozens of people helped us for years. We could not have asked for a warmer introduction to the people of Baltimore."

Miss Shearn attended Cedar Lane School in Columbia, a Howard County special education school, from 1981 to 1991.

For the past decade, she had lived in an apartment in Columbia's Kings Contrivance village with another disabled woman and a counselor.

"Even though Emily was limited, she was extremely stubborn and determined," said her mother, Patricia Shearn, a former special education teacher. "And I think that always put her in good stead. She loved people and took joy in the small things."

Miss Shearn worked for several sheltered workshops, including Humanim, where she was employed shredding documents.

Determined to live a normal life, Miss Shearn visited Disney World in Florida three times. She was active with the Howard County Association of Retarded Citizens and the Howard County Department of Therapeutic Recreation.

"When they had Disabled Awareness Day at school, she'd go along with her brothers who explained what it was like living with a person with special needs," Mr. Shearn said. "A huge network of people helped Emily to live the best life that was possible for her. Anytime we went to the Columbia mall, someone we did not know would say `Hi' to Emily."

"Her physician said her death was sudden and unexpected, and may have resulted from arrhythmia or a blood clot," Mrs. Shearn said.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 20 at the Howard County Association of Retarded Citizens, 11735 Homewood Road, Ellicott City.

In addition to her parents, now of Ellicott City, Miss Shearn is survived by her two brothers, Eli Shearn of Chicago and Isaac Shearn of Burlington, Vt.; and her paternal grandmother, Mary Roth of Chicago.

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