Mary Lou Cole, longtime Roland Park resident, dies at 64

Worked in the field of affordable housing development before job as legislative director for delegate

  • Mary Lou Cole
Mary Lou Cole
December 11, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Mary Lou Cole, who had worked in the field of affordable housing development before becoming legislative director in Annapolis for a Baltimore County delegate, died Saturday of cancer at her Roland Park home.

She was 64.

Mary Lou Brennan, the daughter of a bailiff and a sales associate, was born and raised in Providence, R.I., where she graduated from high school.

Mrs. Cole attended the University of Pennsylvania on a full academic scholarship and earned her bachelor's degree in 1968.

After graduating from Penn, she received the university's Thuron Award, which sent her to Cambridge University to study economics for a year.

When she returned from England, she enrolled at Harvard University, where she earned a master's degree in economics in 1972.

"She was also among one of the first women to be accepted into Harvard's Ph.D. program in economics," said her husband of 35 years, Stephen L. Cole, who works in job development for The ARC of Baltimore.

After marrying in 1975, the couple moved to Baltimore, eventually settling in Roland Park, where they have lived for more than 30 years.

When her children were older, Mrs. Cole returned to the work force in 1999 and, after learning the real estate business, worked renting properties for Enterprise Homes. The company was the building arm of Enterprise Community Partners, which developed affordable housing.

From 2003 to 2005, she worked in a similar capacity for the old Patterson Park Community Development Corp., a nonprofit that purchased and renovated affordable housing.

Family members said there were moments when Mrs. Cole had to display a fearless attitude, which was in contrast to her normally gentle and kindhearted nature.

"She once stood up to a den full of junkies squatting in one of her houses," said her son, Ryan S. Cole of Baltimore. "She gave them 30 minutes to get out, with no real power behind the threat. They were gone in five."

Since 2005, Mrs. Cole has been legislative director for state Del. Dan K. Morhaim, who represents the 11th District.

"Whenever I had a tough decision to make, I'd ask Mary Lou what she thought — she was always a moral compass I could count on," said Dr. Morhaim, who is also a physician.

"She was terrific in every respect. All you had to do was look at her distinguished academic career and years of experience in the private sector," he said.

"She was extremely qualified and was great working with constituents. She took them to heart," said Dr. Morhaim. "I was attending a meeting of constituents and a woman called my name, and I thought, 'Here it comes.' She told me she wanted to thank Mary Lou for something she had done and wanted to send her a card."

He added: "She was a wonderful woman in every respect and worked with me until the very end."

Mrs. Cole had continued working in the delegate's Annapolis office up to within a week of her death.

"We were devastated when we learned that she was sick," said Claudia Karlin, who is legislative assistant to Del. Rudolph C. Cane, a Lower Shore Democrat who represents District 37A.

"She was always very upbeat and professional. I know people always say someone is wonderful at a time like this, but she really was," said Ms. Klarin.

"She loved her work and loved being here. That's the way she was with all of her jobs. She became invested in them, and then she'd go for it," she said.

"She was unfailingly positive and unflinchingly supportive. Her caring and selflessness led those who met her to love her," said her brother, Robert Brennan of Warwick, R.I. "She was the best of us all."

Mrs. Cole was an avid skier and particularly enjoyed the sport at Aspen, Colo., but "would ski anywhere," said her husband.

She was a collector of Christmas ornaments and was an accomplished gourmet cook who enjoyed entertaining.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 19 at Irvine Nature Center, 11201 Garrison Forest Road in Owings Mills.

Also surviving is her daughter, Megan F. Cole of Atlanta.

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