Miriam R. Bruns, 90, avid hiker, member of Mountain Club of Md.

September 17, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Miriam R. Bruns, a homemaker and avid hiker who was a member of the Mountain Club of Maryland for more than 60 years, died of heart failure Sunday at her home in the Avalon section of southwestern Baltimore County. She was 90.

Born Miriam Rittenhouse in Baltimore, she was raised near the Homewood campus of the Johns Hopkins University. She was an Eastern High School graduate and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1934 from Goucher College, where she was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

After taking graduate courses for a year at Smith College, she directed the laboratory at the former Spring Grove State Hospital from 1935 to 1940.

In 1940, she married Lawrence Anthony Bruns, a chemical engineer, and they settled into a 3 1/2 -story stone house in Avalon, where she lived until her death. Her husband died in 1977.

The historic house - one of two surviving from the community's early days and once a station on the Underground Railroad - was built between 1815 and 1822 by the Ellicott family, owners of the Avalon Co., a foundry.

Her home survived the great flood of 1868, which destroyed the foundry and several other mills and homes. It also withstood the flooding of Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.

The home is near the Grist Mill Trail, which winds through Patapsco Valley State Park. With her gray hair worn in a tight bun, Mrs. Bruns was a familiar presence to other hikers as she frequently walked along the trail.

Her interest in hiking began in her youth when she ached to swap city sidewalks for rambling country and mountain trails. And during her lifetime, she hiked on six of the world's seven continents.

"Even though she had been raised in the city, she always wanted to live in the country. So, in 1938 she joined the Mountain Club of Maryland," said one of her three daughters, Karen B. Giles of Frigid, Pa.

Mrs. Bruns hiked throughout New England, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Antarctica, Patagonia and even the Caribbean. She hiked along the Great Wall of China and was in her 70s when she tackled the famed Milford Track in New Zealand, a four-day trek that leads through mountains to Milford Sound.

"She went white-water rafting and enjoyed cross-country skiing. Family vacations were camping and canoe trips in the Adirondacks," Mrs. Giles said.

"She was an extremely interesting lady. She loved history, travel and nature," said Margery Mitchell of Ellicott City, a friend and hiking companion for more than 30 years. "When we were out West, we camped and hiked through the Rockies. We visited Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion and Grand Teton national parks as well as the Grand Canyon."

Mrs. Bruns enjoyed showing slides from her worldwide perambulations and her flower gardening.

She never lost affection for the Grist Mill Trail. Even though she suffered from macular degeneration in recent years, Mrs. Bruns was determined to hike at least part of the trail when she was able - and did so until she was 89.

"She walked the trail with two canes and eventually a walker. When she finally had to give up, we knew that life for her wasn't worth living," Mrs. Giles said.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Mount Hope Presbyterian Church, 4748 Shelbourne Road, Arbutus.

Her daughters - who also include Janet G. Bruns of Relay and Barbara A. Glass of Ellicott City - plan to place a memorial bench for their mother along the Grist Mill Trail.

She also is survived by a brother, Samuel Rittenhouse of Baltimore, and two grandchildren.

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