Joan P. Langston, who spent nearly 30 years counseling bereaved families at several area cemeteries, died of kidney failure March 30 at her Parkville home. She was 68.
She was born Joan Puppe in Baltimore and raised on Mura Street. After graduating in 1954 from Eastern High School, she worked as a Food Fair cashier and later as a night receptionist at radio station WCBM-AM.
After leaving the work force to raise her children, she worked briefly in the early 1960s as a secretary and bookkeeper at Middlestadt Machine Co. in Baltimore, before taking a job as a cemetery representative and counselor at Moreland Memorial Park and Cemetery in Parkville.
"She had no special training except that she was a very warm, personable and friendly individual who wanted to help people through their grief," said her daughter, Gail-Lynn D. Smith of Parkville.
"In this job, you come face to face with people who have lost someone very close to them and this can be very difficult in itself. She was adept at handling families while being extremely solicitous of their feelings," said John W. Armiger Jr., president and owner of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, who hired Mrs. Langston in 1985.
"Joan would help people who had not made prearrangements, sit down and explain what had to be done, and then she'd take them on a tour of the cemetery so they could select a burial location," Mr. Armiger said.
"People are often confused and don't know what to do at this time. She was patient and sympathetic and helped guide them through the process so they could make decisions. And she was good at it."
She also forged relationships that endured long after her professional duties ceased.
"She stayed in touch with her families through phone calls, cards and letters," Mr. Armiger said. "One man who had lost his wife - he was in his late 70s or early 80s - became an ardent admirer of Joan's because she had been so nice to him at a difficult time."
Linda S. Ritter, a mortician apprentice at Cremation and Funeral Alternatives in Towson, and a friend of about 10 years, said, "It takes a special person to do what Joan did. She wasn't into the sales aspect of the job. Her interest was in trying to care for the family."
Mrs. Langston, who retired in 2001, also volunteered at Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore.
She was active in the Towson Elks and the Parkville post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Mrs. Langston was a regular at Pappas Restaurant on Taylor Avenue, where she enjoyed the restaurant's Wednesday night crab cake dinner and playing Keno.
Mrs. Langston's husband of four years, William Langston, a general contractor, died in 2004. Her previous marriage to Alvin A. Smith Sr. ended in divorce.
She had been a member of the old Faith and St. Marks' United Church of Christ.
Services were Saturday.
Also surviving are three grandchildren. Her son, Alvin A. Smith Jr., died in 1992.