Dolores M. “Doe” Nolan dies at age 79

Former developer, gardener and volunteer

April 25, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dolores M. "Doe" Nolan, a former developer and avid gardener who was a passenger in 1963 on a plane that crashed soon after she disembarked, died Wednesday from pneumonia and coronary fibrosis at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

She was 79 and lived at Mercy Ridge retirement community in Lutherville.

Dolores M. Chiaruttini, the daughter of a baker and a farmer, was born in Baltimore and spent her early years in Govans, where her parents owned and operated Jordan's Bakery.

Because she had poor health as a child, "her father purchased a 100-acre farm in Sparks and moved his family there," said a son, Stephen J. Nolan, a Towson lawyer and Timonium resident.

After graduating from Notre Dame Preparatory School in 1948, she attended the Maryland Institute College of Art for a year, where she studied fashion design.

While working at the Baltimore County Courthouse as a clerk in 1950, she met James Daniel Nolan, a decorated World War II veteran who was working as a title researcher while attending the University of Maryland Law School.

They married in 1950 and settled in Rodgers Forge, later living in Wiltondale and the Green Spring Valley, where they raised five children.

Mr. Nolan, who was later president of Blue Shield of Maryland, died last year.

The couple narrowly escaped death in 1963 after returning to Baltimore from a vacation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"They took a chance on a trip and won. They were flying back to Baltimore aboard Pan American Airways Flight 214 on December the 8th, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception," said their son.

"My grandfather came by and picked me up to take me to what was then Friendship Airport to meet my parents," he said. "When we got to the airport, it was raining cats and dogs and an announcement said that Flight 214 would not be landing and would be going on to Philadelphia. I was so disappointed that I wasn't going to see them."

As they were about to depart the airport, another announcement said the plane would be landing in Baltimore as scheduled.

Flight 214 encountered heavy rains and hail as it made its approach to what is now Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport. After experiencing severe turbulence during the 3 1/2-hour return trip, Mrs. Nolan anxiously looked out a window at the rain-slicked runway below.

She thought, "I hope we don't skid," she told The Jeffersonian, a Towson weekly, a few days later.

The Nolans, along with 67 other passengers disembarked, with those bound for Philadelphia remaining aboard.

She looked around the cabin and said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Sam Brown from Cherry Hill, N.J., a couple with whom they had been friendly on the flight to and from Puerto Rico.

She also recalled a lively party of male golfers and two young mothers in their 20s who were carrying infants.

During the flight, she spoke with a teenage girl who was traveling alone and cradled a life-size baby doll in her arms.

"Her sweet, smiling face, looking up into mine will stay with me always," Mrs. Nolan told the newspaper.

Less than an hour later, Flight 214 was struck by lightning and crashed near Elkton, killing 81 passengers.

Mrs. Nolan was home putting clothes away when a sobbing friend called with the news that a plane had crashed near Elkton and was astonished that the Nolans had survived.

The next morning the Nolans went to Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson to pray for those who were lost and to thank God that they had been spared.

Mrs. Nolan thought of the girl she had befriended during the flight.

"In one of the newspapers on the day after the crash I saw a photograph of the shattered remains of her doll baby in a muddy field near Elkton," Mrs. Nolan said in the interview.

"I remember not long afterward," her son said, "that she got a call about a survivors' party and she said that she didn't feel particularly celebratory about the circumstances. My mother felt very blessed. It made her stop and think, but she had always been very grounded in her faith."

Mr. and Mrs. Nolan were partners in the development and building of Courthouse Commons, a Towson office complex.

She was also a gardener and flower arranger. She was a member of the Baltimore Country Club and Three Arts Club of Homeland, and a founding member of the University Club of Towson University.

In addition to their Green Spring Valley home, the couple maintained a home in Fort Myers, Fla., where they lived for 16 years. There, Mrs. Nolan was an English tutor for Hispanic children, a hospice volunteer, and a sponsor of the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Saturday at Stella Maris Chapel.

Also surviving are three other sons, J. Daniel Nolan III of Baltimore, Kevin M. Nolan of Easton and Mark Nolan of Mahomet, Ill.; a daughter, Patricia M. Englehart of Cockeysville; a brother, Giordano Chiaruttini of Alexandria, Va.; a sister, Carmen Noakes of Atlanta; and 10 grandchildren.

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