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Organizer marches Fourth, despite husband's death

Independence Day bittersweet for Mount Washington family

By Larry Perl, lperl@patuxent.com

3:51 PM EDT, July 4, 2011

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Chris and Caroline Tufts were always the life of the party at the Spirit of Mount Washington Independence Day Parade. She would organize the annual parade, which traditionally began in their spacious front yard. He, the more gregarious, played master of ceremonies. It was hard to imagine the festivities without them.

But in February, Chris, 56, a telecommunications consultant and former Green Beret, died of cancer, six months after his diagnosis. This Fourth, the parade did not kick off from their house on Wexford Road.

"My kids didn't want his absence to be so prominent in our front yard," Caroline Tufts said.

Yet there she was at the traditional end of the parade route, the Springwell Senior Living facility, 2211 West Rogers Ave., serving as this year's emcee and chairwoman and wearing a red, white and blue, star-shaped hat made of felt.

"I borrowed it from my 10-year-old," said Tufts, 49. "It doesn't hurt the head."

Life, and the parade, went on for Tufts, who found many reasons to smile on a sunny morning in which the local fire station offered tours of its engine for children, and a crowd of about 600 people enjoyed lemonade and lemon sticks on Springwell's grounds, while listening to a free performance by the Giggmohr Brothers.

The local classic rock band is fronted by guitarist and Mount Washingtonian Paul Yutzy, a Friends School music teacher and a survivor of throat cancer, who once appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

In an election year, several candidates were represented, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made an appearance.

Riding in the parade were Mount Washington Elementary School teachers Margaret May, who was named this year's Baltimore City Teacher of the Year, and Terri Lough, who is retiring.

This year's Honorary Centenarian was Eloise Moore, actually 96, a Springwell resident.

And the emcee was Tufts, who likened her role to that of singer and actress Cher.

"What happened when Sonny Bono died?" she asked rhetorically.

She was heartened by a tribute to her late husband by Cliff Mitchell, past president of the Mount Washington Improvement Association. Mitchell also presented her with a flag from U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin's office that had flown over the Capitol in Washington.

"It's nice because Chris was a vet," she said.

Tufts said she thinks eventually, she will go back to hosting the pre-parade festivities at her house.

"I think we'll go back," she said. "We'll see."