Mary A. Urso, 70, school counselor, Baltimore Co. campaign organizer

January 10, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Mary A. Urso, a veteran Baltimore County political campaign organizer who became a high school guidance counselor, died of cancer Jan. 3 at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Towson resident was 70.

Born Mary A. Chisholm in Philadelphia, she moved to Northeast Baltimore in 1938 and graduated in 1951 from the Catholic High School of Baltimore. She was a secretary and administrative assistant for the John H. Hampshire Co. in Remington and at the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River.

Friends said Mrs. Urso was soon attracted to local Democratic political circles. While living in Parkville in the early 1970s, she became involved in several campaigns.

"In a campaign, she knew what to do and how to do it," said Betsy Clinton, a friend who lives in Baltimore. "She was also a fine writer whose words were spare and precise. She never used an extra, unnecessary word."

Mrs. Urso first worked for Thomas B. Kernan, a Democrat who was running for the House of Delegates.

"There were few politicians in Baltimore County in the '70s and '80s who did not know of this woman's capacity. She wasn't my manager, but she was the one who did all the work," said Mr. Kernan, who served 12 years and was speaker pro-tem of the House of Delegates and now lives in Miami Beach. "She organized volunteers, directed campaign headquarters, licked envelopes, made phone calls, gave encouragement and found lawn-sign locations."

Mrs. Urso also worked for former Republican Rep. Helen Delich Bentley.

"She was very much a Democrat, and even though I am a Republican, she put up with me," Mrs. Bentley said. "Mary was a detail person, very fastidious and exacting."

In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Urso enrolled at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, where she earned a degree in 1990. She then became a high school guidance counselor and worked with seniors at her former high school. Before retiring two years ago, she held the same position at Seton Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore.

"She understood how important it would be for them to go to college," said her daughter, Sharon Hayes of Baltimore. "The girls would often come over to her house and work on their essays on the weekends. My mother's door was always open."

Mrs. Urso also enjoyed writing essays and other works. She was a member of the Deepdene Writers Workshop.

"She was a humorist and wrote very funny pieces," said Margaret Osburn, a colleague and writing coach who also belongs to the workshop. "She had a sharp wit that was also warm. Her humor was a universal commentary on life, society and relationships. You could see yourself in the things that she wrote."

Mrs. Urso was a volunteer and tutored students at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County. She also worked with victims of child abuse at the Franciscan Center on Maryland Avenue.

A Mass was offered Wednesday at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland chapel.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include her husband of 42 years, Leonard N. Urso Sr., a retired electrical engineer; a son, Leonard N. Urso Jr. of San Jose, Calif.; her mother, Mary F. Moore of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

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