Mary P. Ellicott

[ Age 109 ] Co-founder and life member of Women's Hamilton Street Club wrote a newspaper advice column in the 1920s.

December 08, 2006|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Mary Purnell "Bunny" Ellicott, who wrote a personal advice column for a Baltimore newspaper in the early 1920s and was a founder of a downtown women's club, died Nov. 30 at the Broadmead retirement community, where she had been the oldest resident. She was 109.

Born Mary Purnell Gould in Baltimore, she grew up at 713 Park Ave., a block away from Charles Joseph Bonaparte, who was then President Theodore Roosevelt's attorney general. Her uncle had been a classmate of Woodrow Wilson's at Johns Hopkins University.

Mrs. Ellicott was the first child born to Grace and Clarendon Purnell, an attorney who was once Baltimore's police commissioner. She was a 1916 graduate of Bryn Mawr School - a classmate and close friend of Millicent Carey, who, as Millicent Carey McIntosh, became head of Brearley School and Barnard College in New York. They regularly visited when both were more than 100 years old.

Mrs. Ellicott studied acting in New York as a young woman and had a brief career on stage with the Provincetown Players on Cape Cod.

Returning to Baltimore, she took a job on the old Baltimore News, then located in the Munsey Building at Calvert and Fayette streets. She wrote its advice column for several years until the paper was purchased by William Randolph Hearst in 1923.

"She quit when he bought the paper," said her son, LeMoyne Ellicott of Washington, D.C.

About this time, she met a young Baltimore public health doctor, Valcoulon Ellicott. They were married in 1926 at Old St. Paul's Church, where her father had been on the vestry for 50 years.

They moved to Bethesda in 1933 when Dr. Ellicott became Montgomery County health officer. They returned to Baltimore in 1954 when he was named Maryland's assistant health commissioner. They lived for many years in the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County and were members of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.

They moved to Broadmead in 1979, where Dr. Ellicott died in 1983. She lived alone in an apartment in the Cockeysville retirement community until she was 101 and broke her hip. Until she was 102, she spent summers at a lakeside cottage in Eagles Mere, Pa.

"She was a warm and vibrant but dignified lady to the last days of her long life," her son said. "She planned and hosted her 100th birthday party at the Elkridge Club in 1997, and she invited 100 of her friends and family - and kept tabs on who showed up. She walked into the party assisted only by a cane."

She was one of the founders and a life member of the Women's Hamilton Street Club, and member of the National Society of Colonial Dames.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at Immanuel Episcopal Church, 1509 Glencoe Road, Sparks, where she was a communicant. Her ashes will be interred in the Ellicott family cemetery in Ellicott City.

Survivors also include another son, Don Ellicott of Yarmouthport, Mass.; a daughter, Joy Ellicott Jones of Muncy, Pa.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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