Elizabeth W. Constable, 89

was a founder of the Ladew Foundation

June 02, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Elizabeth W. Constable, an avid gardener and a founder and trustee of the Harvey Smith Ladew Foundation that administers the Ladew home and its famous topiary gardens, died of heart failure Tuesday at Harmony Hall, her 125-acre Monkton farm and home for more than a half-century. She was 89.

Born Elizabeth Whedbee in Baltimore, she was raised at Edgewood, her family's estate on Lake Avenue.

She was educated at Notre Dame Preparatory School, Convent of the Sacred Heart in Noroton, Conn., and at a school in Rome.

She was married in 1937 to George W. Constable. Her husband, who died in 2002, had been a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Wright, Constable & Skeen and a leader in religious and cultural organizations.

During World War II, Mrs. Constable was a nursing assistant at Union Memorial Hospital.

Her lifelong love of gardening was influenced by her mother, who maintained the formal gardens at Edgewood, and her grandmother, whose gardens at Windy Gate -- now Devon Hill on Lake Avenue -- had been laid out by noted landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted.

After the 1976 death of Mr. Ladew, Mrs. Constable became involved in the preservation of his Monkton home and gardens. She had served as president of the foundation and head of its gardening and executive committees, and she was a trustee at her death.

Mrs. Constable received a Garden Club of America Zone Award for her work at Ladew, and had also been president of the Garden Club of Twenty.

At her home, she and her husband created gardens with azaleas and rhododendrons. In an area near a pond and stream, they included benches and stone tablets engraved with biblical inscriptions.

Mrs. Constable took up skiing in her 40s and learned golf in her 70s -- continuing to play until well into her 80s. For more than 50 years, she enjoyed vacationing at Sea Plum, a second home on Nantucket.

She was a member of the Nantucket Yacht Club, Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club and Mount Vernon Club.

Mrs. Constable was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville and Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church in Parkton.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mary's Seminary and University, 5400 Roland Ave.

She is survived by three sons, George W. Constable Jr. of Washington, James W. Constable of Monkton and Robert A. Constable of New York City; four daughters, Eleanor Weller Reade of Monkton, Elizabeth C. Von Kessler of Glyndon, Isabel C. Joffrion of Birmingham, Ala., and Lucinda C. Ballard of New York City; a brother, T. Courtenay Jenkins Whedbee of Cockeysville; 19 grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.

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