Ethel Melcher Blakeslee, 95, fought to save Original Northwood elms

June 12, 2005|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Ethel Melcher Blakeslee, a longtime resident of Original Northwood who fought to save its elm trees, died June 5 at Union Memorial Hospital of a pulmonary embolism, after suffering complications from Parkinson's disease. She was 95 and lived for the past six years at Roland Park Place, after almost 60 years on Kelway Road in Northwood.

Ethel Ramona Melcher was born in Baltimore, graduated from Forest Park High School and earned a teaching degree at what is now Towson University.

She then earned a master's degree in biology at the Johns Hopkins University, where she met Kenneth W. Blakeslee in an art history class. In 1937, the two were married and in 1940 they moved to Kelway Road, where they lived until Mr. Blakeslee's death in 1999.

Mrs. Blakeslee taught science in the late 1930s and early 1940s at Lake Clifton High School, sometimes holding class on the roof to benefit pupils with tuberculosis, said her son, Kenneth W. Blakeslee Jr. of Rockville.

She was a lifetime member of the Original Northwood Association and belonged to its garden club. While raising her family, she became active with a team of volunteers who helped to treat American elms exposed to Dutch elm disease. The association received a Baltimore's Best Neighborhood award in 1986 for these efforts.

"They looked like ghostbusters," Mr. Blakeslee said, "she and these young guys with canisters."

In a 1991 Sun interview that identified her as one of the neighborhood's original residents, Mrs. Blakeslee recalled when Northwood "was considered country. Back then, there were lots of woods here where I would gather loam for my garden."

And, she said, "there used to be a free bus for residents, to take us to the stores and the movies at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street."

Mrs. Blakeslee also was active with the Girl Scouts for many years. During World War II, she volunteered at Sinai Hospital, and in 1946, received a certificate of appreciation for her work there teaching phlebotomy, Mr. Blakeslee said.

A memorial service was held Thursday at Roland Park Place.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Blakeslee is survived by three daughters, Katherine M. Blakeslee of Washington, Sara Busch of Damariscotta, Maine, and Cindy Blakeslee of Montpelier, Vt.; and three grandchildren.

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