Mary Elizabeth Brown, 70, librarian at APL

March 09, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Mary Elizabeth Brown, a retired librarian for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory who also raised sheep and sheared their wool for weaving projects, died of complications from cancer Saturday at Mercy Medical Center. The Ten Hills resident was 70.

Born Mary Elizabeth Bomberger in Washington, she was raised in Alaska while her father served in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

She earned a degree in geography from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also took theater courses. She joined the United Service Organizations and made a USO tour of Iceland as a stage manager for military shows in the early 1950s.

For many years, Ms. Brown had a working farm in Mount Airy. She raised sheep and goats and developed an interest in spinning, weaving and knitting. She helped organize the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at the Howard County Fairgrounds and exhibited her textiles there.

"She loved her pets and had a natural affinity for her animals," said her daughter, Hulda K. Brown of Oella. "She was a quiet, private person who often expressed herself best in her letters, which were direct and to the point."

Ms. Brown joined the staff at APL as a map librarian in 1960, and became head of collection development and online services. She also founded the Submarine Technology Department library.

She was also stage manager for many theatrical productions featuring APL staff members.

She retired 10 years ago.

"She had a quick wit," said Pat Slert, a library colleague and friend. "She saw the humor in many things. She was also a competent librarian, and in her role as head of online services, before the days of the Internet, she was accessing databases to support our technical work."

Family members said much of her work was classified.

"She could never talk about her work because of its nature," said her companion, Alan Shapiro. "She directed her energy at home into her gardening and weaving. She had about 300 varieties of iris, 120 lilies and day lilies and 70 varieties of hostas. In the late winter, her snowdrops started blooming, and I don't even know how many ferns she had."

Ms. Brown was a Center Stage volunteer usher and assisted with the Arbutus Theatrical Company. She was membership secretary for the American Iris Society, and a member of the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore and the National Association of Parliamentarians.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

In addition to her daughter and companion, she is survived by a son, Ronald J. Brown of New Windsor; a brother, Lawrence Bomberger of Mount Storm, W.Va.; and a grandson. Her marriage to John F. Brown, a draftsman and engineering teacher, ended in divorce.

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