Sylvia Badger

The Baltimore Sun and News American columnist followed the party and people circuit for two decades

February 21, 2010|By Jacques Kelly

Sylvia Badger, a former Baltimore Sun columnist who followed the party and people circuit for two decades, died of cancer Monday at the Avow Hospice in Naples, Fla. She was 72 and had homes in Centreville and Florida.

"She knew everybody," said Baltimore advertising executive Bob Leffler. "She also knew how to handle information and was never mean-spirited."

Born Sylvia Hayes in Spartanburg, S.C., she attended local schools. She married a Baltimorean, A. Gordon Boone Jr., an attorney who became a Baltimore County judge, but was then serving in the Air Force at Fort Fisher.

She moved with her husband to Oak Hill, a Boone family compound in Ruxton. There she raised a family and volunteered with the Junior League, March of Dimes, Santa Claus Anonymous and Historic Hampton.

She was a bridge-playing friend of Thomas J. White, the editor of the old News American, who mentioned that he had an opening for a bridal page clerk. She accepted - after taking a typing course because she said her skill at a keyboard was "appalling." She soon became a popular figure in the newsroom and composing room, where she worked with printers as they made up the brides' pages. After about six years, she told friends she had grown tired of the job. "All I do is fill in the blanks," she said of bridal writing.

In 1978, editor Ron Martin asked her to start writing a people column. Again, she said she was "petrified," but friends said her social connections and easy way with people could make her a natural. She began covering local organizations and handled coverage of the Preakness, Flower Mart and City Fair, as well as openings at the Mechanic Theatre and the Baltimore Opera Company.

"She was a warm and loving person," said Floraine B. Applefeld, the former director of Maryland You Are Beautiful. "She cared about Baltimore and Maryland, and was a decent human being. She was one of the fairest reporters I have ever met."

After the News American ceased publication in 1986, she immediately joined The Evening Sun and later The Baltimore Sun, and continued her column until she retired in 1999.

"I saw her in action, and I marveled at her ability," said Michael Davis, a former assistant managing editor. "She knew so many people, and she was so good at extracting information."

One of her early assignments was to cover the wedding of Kelly and Cal Ripken Jr. in November 1987.

"She knew Kelly's mother, and she had all the right connections," Mr. Davis said.

Her story appeared under the headline, "The 6-foot blonde who captured Cal."

Over the years, she was a presence at fundraisers for medical charities and the arts community.

"Sylvia became the voice of what good was occurring in our city and state," said state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. "People trusted her. People confided in her."

Mrs. Grasmick said that "people naturally gravitated toward Sylvia," and "they genuinely liked her." She said the secret of her success was "Sylvia treated everyone with equity."

Theater owner and philanthropist Clarisse Mechanic became one of her closest confidants, after Ms. Mechanic called one day to complain about an item in a column. The two met and wound up becoming close friends. They frequently lunched together at the Center Club. More recently, Mrs. Badger served on the board of the Morris Mechanic Foundation.

"Whatever Sylvia was covering, she did it with great panache," said Stiles Tuttle Colwill, an interior designer and Baltimore Museum of Art trustee.

A memorial service was held Friday in Florida. Plans for a memorial in Baltimore were incomplete.

Survivors include her husband of 30 years, William Badger; two sons, A. Gordon Boone III of Monkton and John Marshall Boone of Tiverton, R.I.; a daughter, Anne Boone Simanski of Reisterstown; a stepson, William Badger Jr. of Baltimore; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Wynne of Front Royal, Va.; a sister, Ann H. Johnson of Knoxville, Tenn.; two brothers, L.P. Hayes and Donald S. Hayes of Wilmington, N.C.; five grandchildren; and three step-grandchildren. Her earlier marriage ended in divorce.

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