Marjorie R. Foley

State Employee, Homemaker And Volunteer Worked As A Navy Code Breaker During World War Ii

April 27, 2009|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

Marjorie Ramsay Foley, one of the first women to be commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II, died of cancer Tuesday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 87.

Marjorie Reid was born to Harry and Marjorie Reid and grew up in Roland Park and Lutherville. She attended Roland Park Public School before graduating from St. Catherine's School in Richmond, Va., at age 16. She graduated from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa., in 1941 with a degree in English. She continued her studies in graduate school at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and at George Washington University.

Ms. Foley also attended midshipmen's school at Smith College and was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Willow Grove, Pa., as well as the Gulf Sea Frontier headquarters in Miami. There she contributed to the American effort to decipher German codes as a communications officer. She attained the rank of lieutenant. Ms. Foley and the other female officers were known as WAVES - Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service - even though they were paid.

FOR THE RECORD - In an obituary in Monday's editions, the maiden name of Marjorie Reid Foley was incorrect.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

Ms. Foley's daughter Donna Foley of Fairfax, Va., said her mother wanted to serve her country during World War II and told fond stories of her days in the Navy, such as a time when she met film stars John Wayne and Robert Montgomery, but declined their invitation for lunch because she had the opportunity to eat steak elsewhere.

"She had this lovely, slender figure, so you would never have guessed that food was such a high priority to her and that she'd choose steak over two Hollywood icons," her daughter said.

After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946, Ms. Foley worked for the Maryland Department of Employment Security as an aptitude test administrator and interviewer.

After getting married and having her first child, she became a homemaker for 17 years. When her youngest child finished elementary school, she returned to work briefly at the Baltimore Council for International Visitors, then worked as a grants administrator for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

She retired from her position as intergovernmental coordinator for state projects in the Department of State Planning in 1984.

In addition to reading and volunteering, Ms. Foley enjoyed traveling. In 1962, she organized a family trip to 13 European countries, sparking a 30-year friendship with a French woman who helped her after she lost her luggage in France. Ms. Foley also enjoyed activities at her church of 60 years, Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.

"She could discuss just about anything with anybody but was always modest about her capabilities and the fact that she was such a wonderful conversationalist," Donna Foley said. "In addition to her quick wit, she genuinely loved people and made those around her immediately comfortable."

Ms. Foley's first marriage, to Emory Frederick Gross, ended in divorce, as did a second marriage to Albert E. Thompson Foley.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Emory F. Gross of Lutherville; another daughter, M. Ramsay Bell of Ruxton; a brother, Harry F. Reid of Towson; and four grandchildren.

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