M. Judith McHale, 82, diplomat, translator

April 12, 2004|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Margaret Judith McHale, a multilingual world-traveler who held administrative positions for the U.S. State Department, died of emphysema Wednesday at Charlestown Retirement Community. The former Silver Spring resident was 82.

Ms. McHale, who was known as Judith, was born in Baltimore, the only child of Helen and John McHale. Mr. McHale was an official of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. She grew up in Relay next door to her cousin, Patricia Wilford.

"We were raised just like sisters," said Mrs. Wilford, who lives in Catonsville.

Ms. McHale graduated from Catonsville High School and went on to earn a degree in liberal arts at Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington.

Fluent in Spanish and French, Ms. McHale joined the State Department as an administrative assistant in 1952, quickly rising through the ranks to positions as a diplomat and translator in France, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic and at the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York.

"She loved her work - oh, she loved to work with the State Department," Mrs. Wilford said. "Really her whole life was her work."

But it made her a very private person, said Mrs. Wilford's son: "A lot of that is because of the nature of what she did for the State Department," said David Wilford.

While working in London as a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in the 1950s, Ms. McHale told a Sun reporter she wanted to see the world.

"I'm fond of meeting people, especially people from other countries," she said. "Joining the State Department is the best way to have this wish fulfilled."

Mrs. Wilford visited her cousin while she was stationed in London, handling visa applications.

"I loved it, we kept busy the whole time," she said. "When we were over there, any of the hotels we stayed at flew the American flag when she was there, and when she would walk out of a building American soldiers would salute. It scared me to death until I got used to it. She led a good life."

Ms. McHale retired from the State Department in the 1990s with a collection of prestigious memorabilia.

"Each time the president changed over in Washington, whether a Republican or Democrat, she would have to be reinstated. She had all these letters and all from four different presidents," Mrs. Wilford said. "She also had all kinds of invitations from Queen Elizabeth to Buckingham Palace; they invited all the foreign service people."

Ms. McHale took her mother, who lived with her, along on many of her journeys.

Services were held Saturday at Hubbard Funeral Home in Baltimore.

In addition to Mrs. Wilford and David Wilford, survivors include cousins Mary Pat Wilford of Relay and Charles Wilford of Millersville.

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