Grace P. Hobbs, 88, city tennis champion

April 26, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Grace Parker Hobbs, a former Baltimore City tennis champion and portrait artist, died Tuesday at Stella Maris Hospice of complications from Alzheimer's disease. She was 88 and formerly lived in Homeland.

Grace Parker was born and raised in Catonsville. She graduated from Catonsville High School in 1932 and from what is now the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1936. She married pianist and orchestra leader Leonard Hobbs in 1940. He died in 1996, several months after the two moved into Stella Maris Hospice.

Mrs. Hobbs was a self-taught tennis player who never took a lesson until after she had won championships, said a daughter, Torie Hobbs Harlan of Roland Park.

Despite a lack of support from her family, at age 12 she "got a tennis racket and hopped on a streetcar" in Catonsville and went to Druid Hill Park to play on the courts there. "Nothing ever stopped her," Mrs. Harlan said.

Her tenacity resulted in citywide titles for singles, women's and mixed doubles in 1935, and singles in 1936 and 1938.

Later, she worked to make tennis more accessible to residents of Catonsville, where she raised her two daughters, Mrs. Harlan and Valery Hobbs Newman of Darien, Conn.

In the early 1950s, she began a crusade to revamp tennis courts at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church that had fallen into disrepair.

"She was so resourceful. She found a way to get done what she needed to get done," Mrs. Harlan said.

Mrs. Hobbs played there until the family moved to Homeland in 1956 and joined the Homeland Racquet Club.

Toward the end of that decade, Mrs. Newman said, her mother also helped "reinvigorate" in Baltimore the Junior Wightman Cup, a program for teen-age girls to train for the women's equivalent of the all-male Davis Cup competition.

Mrs. Hobbs also served as chairwoman of the Greater Baltimore Tennis Patrons Association.

She will also be remembered for her pastel portraits of children, her daughters said.

Hundreds of parents in the area commissioned her to sketch their children, Mrs. Harlan said.

Mrs. Hobbs would shoot a roll of black-and-white film of the person she was going to sketch, and using different elements of the photos -- the hair from one, the expression from another -- would draw a color portrait, Mrs. Harlan said. She would often give portraits as gifts, Mrs. Harlan said.

She stopped doing portraits as her Alzheimer's disease progressed in the 1990s, Mrs. Harlan said.

Services were held Saturday at the chapel at Stella Maris.

In addition to her two daughters, she is survived by three grandsons and four stepgrandsons, six great-grandchildren and six step-great-grandchildren.

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