Heather G. Bailey, 36, star athlete, banker, homemaker


Heather G. Bailey, a Cedarcroft homemaker whose battle with ovarian cancer was an inspiration to family, friends and former St. Paul's School for Girls classmates, died Thursday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. She was 36.

Born Heather Geiger in Baltimore and raised in Riderwood, she was a 1987 graduate of St. Paul's, where she had been an outstanding athlete.

During her freshman year, she was the varsity field hockey team's high scorer and also played varsity basketball and tennis. As a sophomore, she earned the school's athletic sash for playing three sports at the varsity level, and in successive years was captain of the basketball team.

She earned All-Star honors in field hockey, basketball and tennis and was inducted into St. Paul's Athletic Hall of Fame this year.

"Heather was a terrific athlete, and I remember the twinkle in her eye at 3 p.m. when it was time for practice or a game," said Nancy Bradford, a retired middle school head who was Mrs. Bailey's fifth-grade teacher. "She was tenacious in everything, in athletics and in the classroom - a conscientious student who always tried to do her best."

"She was the only student who came to us already having played in a boys' soccer rec league, and needless to say, she was an instant success as an athlete. She came to life when it came to athletics," said Mary Ellen Thomsen, retired head of St. Paul's School for Girls.

After earning her bachelor's degree in business administration in 1991 from Loyola College, she went to work at First National Bank of Maryland and headed its United Way campaign.

She was later promoted to financial sales representative, licensed to sell annuities, mutual funds and the bank's other financial products.

In 1992, she married Oliver J. Bailey III, a buyer for R.E. Michel Co., and after the birth of their son in 1999, left the bank to become a full-time homemaker.

Less than a year after the birth of her daughter in 2001, Mrs. Bailey - whose grandmother and mother had died of ovarian cancer - was found to have advanced ovarian cancer. Surgery and an initial round of chemotherapy produced a brief remission of the disease.

After learning that Mrs. Bailey would undergo more aggressive chemotherapy in the summer of 2003, friends and classmates from the Class of 1987 established "Team Bailey," to provide support for her family. That October, Team Bailey sponsored the Bailey 3-K Walk on the school's Brooklandville campus to raise money for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

"Heather always had a winner's attitude. She threw herself wholeheartedly into everything she did, and she expected to win - in athletics, business and especially in her fight with ovarian cancer," her husband said. "Through 38 rounds of chemotherapy, she looked this disease in the eye every day and never blinked. Her spirit never wavered."

"She was a wonderfully courageous and optimistic lady who was a real fighter. She said to me when she was very sick, `I'm a team player,' and I'll never forget that. And I think that team spirit was a big help to her doctors," Mrs. Bradford said.

"She accepted her fate but always had hope. She hoped that her miracle would happen and remained upbeat in dealing with her illness," said Amy O. Metzger, a friend for 34 years and classmate. "She was a very strong woman and an amazing mother. Even though she was sick, she'd find time to read a book, color or watch a favorite TV show with her children. She worked hard at making life as normal as possible."

As family, friends and classmates closed ranks around her, Mrs. Bailey tried to plan for the future.

"Heather wrote letters to her children and videotaped messages and tried to be as open and honest as possible with them. She wanted her friends to be a part of her children's lives because she realized that life had to go on whether she was there or not," Mrs. Metzger said.

Mrs. Bailey enjoyed working out and spending summers at her family's home in Stone Harbor, N.J. She was a member of the Baltimore Country Club.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7601 York Road, Towson, where she was a member.

Surviving, in addition to her husband, are her son, Chase M.T. Bailey, 6, and daughter, Sandra Suzanne Bailey, 4; her father, William T. Geiger of Hunt Valley; two brothers, William T. Geiger Jr. of Virginia Beach, Va., and K. Daniel Geiger of Baltimore; a stepbrother, Duane L. Wayman III of Encinitas, Calif.; a stepsister, Alisha W. Bryson of Bear, Del.; and numerous nieces and nephews. Another brother, Andrew C. Geiger, died in 1996.


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