Delia F. Doll, 96, Episcopal bishop's wife was `minister of hospitality'

July 26, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Delia F. Doll, widow of the 10th Episcopal bishop of Maryland and long active in church affairs, died of heart failure Wednesday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. She was 96.

Delia Francis Gould was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., the daughter of an accountant. Educated in public schools, she worked as a legal secretary for a Birmingham law firm.

Active in the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama in her youth, she met her future husband, Harry Lee Doll, at a convention of the Young People's Service League in 1929.

When the couple married in 1933, Mr. Doll was assistant rector at Epiphany Episcopal Church in Washington. She accompanied him to ministries in Alexandria, Va., and Houston, and then to Baltimore in 1942, when he was named rector of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

He was consecrated as bishop suffragan in Baltimore in 1955, elected bishop coadjutor of Maryland in 1957 and succeeded the Right Rev. Noble C. Powell as bishop upon the latter's retirement in 1963.

"When he was consecrated as bishop, she found her own ministry with the families of the clergy. She typically accompanied her husband on his regular visitations to the parishes of the diocese, where they often stayed in the rectory," said her daughter Millicent Doll Shargel of Tallahassee, Fla.

"Some of her fond memories were of rectory children climbing into bed with them in the morning, and persuading a vestry that a rector's wife needed a washing machine more than any other form of support," Mrs. Shargel said.

Mrs. Doll had an effective way of keeping track of people she and her husband met on church visits. She jotted down names and descriptions in a small book that she kept in the car's glove compartment.

"She knew and remembered literally hundreds of members of various parishes in the diocese, and on return visits she and my father would go over the list before they arrived at the church," Mrs. Shargel said.

Her husband retired in 1971, and after his death in 1984, Mrs. Doll became an active member of Memorial Episcopal Church in Bolton Hill.

"Delia Doll was one of the most special ladies I've ever met in my life. She personified the lay minister and was devoted to both the church and the Lord. It was an honor for us when she came to Memorial," said the Rev. F. Lyman "Barney" Farnham, former rector there.

"She helped me take Communion to the elderly and assisted me with our weekly service at Memorial Apartments. She had been a member of the stewardship committee and just gave her all to the church."

"She was our ultimate minister of hospitality," said the Rev. Martha N. Macgill, present rector of Memorial. "She was always greeting people with love, warmth and food. She was a woman of great inner strength and fortitude."

Mrs. Doll, who was described by friends as being both "gracious and graceful," and the "personification of a Southern lady," was also forward-looking and shared her husband's activism in civil rights, open housing legislation and better opportunities for the poor of all races.

"She was also violently for the ordination of women in the church and didn't hold anything back on this issue. She'd ride a horse right down the middle of the street on this one," said the Right Rev. David K. Leighton Sr., retired Episcopal bishop of Maryland, who was successor to Mr. Doll. "She was very helpful when you were in trouble. She was willing and jumped in to do whatever needed to be done."

Mr. Leighton described her as "very well-read and erudite" and "very much a Democrat."

In recent years, Mrs. Doll seldom left her West University Parkway home as her sight began failing.

"What she was able to do was pray for people on our prayer list," Mrs. Macgill said.

For more than 60 years, Mrs. Doll enjoyed visiting a cottage that she and her husband maintained at Pocono Lake Preserve, Pa. She also enjoyed gardening, reading, sewing and following the Orioles.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

Also surviving are two other daughters, Rebecca Doll Clark of Homeland and the Rev. Mary Chotard Doll of Walla Walla, Wash.; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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