Wallace E. Dow, 96, booking agent

July 04, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Wallace E. "Wally" Dow, a retired YMCA director who began a second career operating a booking agency, died of complications of old age June 27 at the Masonic Home in Hunt Valley. The longtime Monkton resident was 96.

The Dow Agency, which placed lecturers, writers, musicians and artists from around the world, grew out of Mr. Dow's college experience booking bands and his work directing programs and camps for the YMCA. Along with his wife, the former Elizabeth "Bibber" Sparks, he continued running the business well into his 80s. The agency drew Shakespearean actors, Dickens lecturers and Europe's popular singers to the United States.

"He brought a lot of entertainers here from abroad and became great friends with them," said his niece, Julie Boone of Cockeysville. "When he and Bibber were traveling abroad, those same people reciprocated the hospitality. They really met tons of interesting people all their lives."

The Dows often invited the artists to their Monkton farm, known as Linden Hope, and took guests on horseback rides through northern Baltimore County.

"She was a great rider and he rode casually," Ms. Boone said.

She was the athlete in the family, but frequently complimented her husband for his staunch support. When Mrs. Dow participated in the Maryland Senior Olympics about a decade ago and represented the state in the National Senior Olympics in tennis, the long jump and the shot put, her husband tagged along as her coach.

Mrs. Dow, an award-winning equestrian, was born at the farm where the couple spent all 62 years of their marriage. They met on a Chesapeake Bay cruise aboard the Lady Baltimore, an encounter he retold in Taking the Lead, a biography of Mrs. Dow written by Elizabeth Shanley Driscoll.

"All that woman talks about are horses, horses, and more horses," he said of their first meeting. "What do I know about horses? I'm a city boy from New England. The only horses I ever saw were the ones at the firehouse in Lynn, Mass. If I'm ever going to get anywhere with her, I'm going to have to learn about horses."

A graduate of Springfield College in Massachusetts, Mr. Dow once considered a career in the ministry and studied at the University of California and Pacific School of Religion. Instead, he took a job with the regional YMCA, soon became program director in the Maryland area and for decades ran summer camps in New England. During the Depression, the federal government hired Mr. Dow to complete a study of migration by boys and men between Maryland and Florida.

He had developed alopecia, an autoimmune disease of the skin resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body, at an early age. He quickly learned that a sense of humor would help him cope with baldness, Ms. Boone said.

"He always said people remembered him because of his bald head," she said.

The Dows enjoyed entertaining at their farm and hosted many evenings at the Manor Tavern. They always asked guests to speak of their recent travels.

The couple owned many horses throughout their lives and had such fondness for Dalmatians that they held annual birthday parties for their dogs.

Mrs. Dow died in 1999 and Mr. Dow moved to the Masonic Home in 2002.

The family plans a memorial service at a later date at St. James Episcopal Church in Monkton, where Mr. Dow was a longtime member.

In addition to Ms. Boone, survivors include several nieces and nephews.

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