Joan Moag, wallpaper business owner, dies

Matriarch led a family by her own example

  • Joan C. Moag
Joan C. Moag
April 22, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Joan C. Moag, a family matriarch who started a successful home wallpapering business on a whim, died of complications of cancer and Alzheimer's disease Monday at the Blakehurst Retirement Community. She was 78 and had lived in Tuscany-Canterbury.

Born Joan Swanson in Chicago, she attended Aquinas High School and Loyola University of Chicago. She married John Andrew Moag, a neighbor who lived on the same block, in 1953. They spent their honeymoon in Paris and lived for a year in Heidelberg, Germany, where he was stationed with the Army.

Her husband became a CSX executive, and the couple moved to Baltimore in 1963, living in Lakeside, Pinehurst and later on Cloverhill Road.

"She transformed a room with her smile," said her pastor, the Rev. William J. Watters of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church. "She lighted a room with it. The glass was always half full for her — and tomorrow was always another day. She had the gift of helping others to see it that way, too."

Mrs. Moag was the mother of six children, one of whom would help usher the Ravens National Football League franchise to Baltimore. But she herself was not a fan.

"I wouldn't say she was a Ravens fan. I never caught her watching the game," said her son, John Moag Jr., the former chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who lives in Baltimore. "My father was a huge Notre Dame fan, as are many people who lived in Chicago. My mother would round us up on a game day and get us out of the house so my father could watch the game uninterrupted."

He said his mother was an only child and she loved having a large family and running the show.

"She went non-stop all day, whether raising six kids or running a wallpaper business," he said. "In her leadership style, she was not one to lecture us. She led all of us by example, but the way she led her own life: She was smart, quick and efficient. She loved entertaining people and could put a dinner party together in what seemed like 20 minutes."

In the 1970s, as her children grew older, she and a friend started a wallpapering business named the Paper People.

"We did it on a whim," said her business partner, Barbara D. Effinger, who lives in Towson. "The adventures we had could make a weekly sitcom. Some people hired us just to beat their loneliness. Others asked us to watch their kids or left the house and gave us instructions to take the cake out of the oven at a certain time. Mostly, we laughed at lot and had fun."

The business began with an ad in the Towson Times and flourished through word-of-mouth recommendation.

"We could work on our own schedules," said Mrs. Effinger. "At times there were jobs we didn't want and we would price ourselves out on purpose. People still hired us. We found our work provided great lessons in people. Some of our customers were lonely and they would call and complain. Joan and I would go back and talk to them. Before long they'd be inviting us to dinner."

She said that she and Mrs. Moag found that their customers habitually procrastinated about home improvement until the arrival of the holidays.

"We swore we weren't going to work at Christmas," said Mrs. Effinger. "But it was probably our busiest season. People wanted the work done yesterday."

Mrs. Moag told friends she liked the work and the chance to make some money to rent a family vacation home, the Footloose Cottage, in Bethany Beach, Del.

Family members said Mrs. Moag was a reader and accomplished fine art painter who took classes at the Renaissance Institute. She also enjoyed lengthy walks. She liked flowers and chaired a booth for her church at the Flower Mart for several years. She was also a volunteer for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland and was a supporter of the St. Ignatius Academy on Calvert Street.

Mrs. Moag donated her body to John Hopkins medical research.

A memorial Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St.

In addition to her husband of 57 years and son, survivors include three other sons, Anthony "Tony" Moag of Ruxton, Gavin Moag of White Hall and Brendan Moag of Havertown, Pa.; two daughters, Elizabeth Moag of Ruxton and Jennifer Moag Black of Towson; 18 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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