Austin D. Twigg 3rd and Mary E. Twigg

Austin D. Twigg 3rd, a retired newspaperman, and his wife, the former Mary Elaine Fairbank, who were nearly constant companions during their 67-year marriage, died this month within 48 hours of each other.

Mr. Twigg died March 6 of pneumonia at St. Agnes Hospital, and his wife died two days later of congestive heart failure at the same hospital. Both were 91.

"They were nearly inseparable because they were really lucky that they had the same common interests such as books, reading and going to museums," said a daughter, Susan Isabella Twigg of Woodlawn.

"He was determined to stay on the earth as long as she was there. He didn't want to leave her," Ms. Twigg said. "It really is a great love story."

The son of Austin D. Twigg Jr., a farmer, and Kathleen McMillan Thompson Twigg, a homemaker, Austin Davis Twigg 3rd was born in Rochester, N.Y., and moved with his family in 1928 to Twiggtown in Allegany County, near Cumberland.

After graduating from Fort Hill High School in Cumberland in 1943, Mr. Twigg, who was known as "Twigg III," enlisted in the Navy and served as a radar technician aboard USS Landing Craft Support 113 in the Pacific and fought in the campaign for Okinawa.

His decorations included the Asiatic and Pacific Theater of War Ribbon, a battle star for the Okinawa campaign, American Theater of War Ribbon and Victory Medal, and the Japanese Occupation Ribbon.

After being discharged from the Navy, he studied photography at Potomac State College of West Virginia University in Keyser and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Tiring of life in the mountains of Western Maryland, Mr. Twigg decided to move to Baltimore in 1948, where he worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital photographing medical data for research and records.

That same year, he took a position as a dance instructor at an Arthur Muray Dance Studio, a job that turned out changing his life.

Mary Elaine Fairbank, who was the daughter of William Guy Fairbank, a banker and Hollywood, Calif., motion picture investor, and Mary Isabelle Fairbank, a civic activist, was born in Hollywood.

"After her father lost his money during the Depression investing in talking-pictures technology, they moved back to Catonsville," Ms. Twigg said.

After graduating from Catonsville High School in 1944, Mrs. Twigg attended the old St. Mary's Female Seminary-Junior College, now St. Mary's College of Maryland, and later the Johns Hopkins Univerisity.

She left school to become a wife and mother, and in 1947, she and her first husband, Lt. Edgar "Ned" Bayliss, an Air Force pilot, moved to Panama where he was stationed.

In 1948, her husband was killed when his plane went down off the coast of Panama, leaving her a widow with an 8-month old son and another child on the way.

She returned to Catonsville and after months of grieving for her husband, her mother suggested she go out and have some fun taking dance lessons, family members said.

It was at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio that she met and fell in love with her future husband.

"Austin Twigg swept Mary Elaine off her feet, literally," said a son, William B. Twigg of Sparrows Point.

"He was very dashing and sweet all the way through," their daughter said.

"Of all the things that I admire about my father, the greatest is that he courageously (or foolishly) married a young woman with two babies 14 months apart. What an undertaking!" Ms. Twigg wrote in an email.

"And my grandfather thought he was a gigolo. What rascal would take on such a burden at 23 years old?" she wrote.

"My father told me that mom actually swept him off his feet. I try to imagine them back then. She had to be his worst student," Ms. Twigg wrote. "Even at 22 years old, she looked like a colt. She was painfully shy, awkward and all legs."

The couple married in 1949 and lived in Woodlawn and later in the Edmondson Heights neighborhood of Catonsville.

As their family grew to six children, Mr. Twigg sold cars for A.D. Anderson and later was editor of papers in La Plata in Southern Maryland and Damascus in Montgomery County during the 1960s. He later worked in advertising sales for the Catonsville Times, which was owned by Stromberg Publications.

Known as "Miss Mary," Mrs. Twigg began teaching kindergarten in 1964 at Dickeyville Day Nursery School in Dickeyville in its four-room red schoolhouse.

She was named executive director of the school in 1980 and retired in 1999.

Mr. Twigg enrolled at what is now the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County in the early 1980s.

"Because they gave free classes to seniors and he was interested in computers and desktop publishing, they eventually hired him in 1986 to work in their computer lab," Ms. Twigg said. "He did that until 1996."

The couple had been active for more than 50 years in the Edmondson Heights Civic Association, where Mrs. Twigg edited the community newsletter.

She also founded and organized many events that are now annually celebrated by the community. She founded and coordinated the community-wide flea market, which grew to become a neighborhood fair.

Mrs. Twigg also organized Easter egg hunts, park cleanups and other neighborhood activities.

She had been a den mother for Cub Scout Pack 889, and supported the Edmondson Heights Recreation Council's sports leagues.

Mr. Twigg also was active in the recreation council and Scouting, and was a member of the Catonsville Kiwanis Club. During the 1970s, he volunteered with Project Concerned, a hotline for youths.

In addition to dancing, singing, swimming and skating, Mr. Twigg enjoyed reading and collecting books. He was a fan of H. L. Mencken and had been a member of the Mencken Society.

He also collected cameras and Mickey Mouse memorabilia.

Mrs. Twigg was an avid gardener and enjoyed collecting children's and miniature books.

She and here husband shared an interest in Baltimore and American history, and organized weekend trips for their children to historic sites or just to explore downtown Baltimore.

"She was always trying to get him to take care of himself so he'd live. She was his caregiver," Ms. Twigg said.

Even though they were in different hospital rooms at the ends of their lives, staff would bring them together for visits.

"He desperately wanted to reconnect with her, so when she came to his room, they wanted to be intimate and held hands," Ms. Twigg said. "He was always writing sweet notes to her, even at the end, until they day he died."

A memorial service for the couple will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Rockland United Methodist Church, 8971 Chapel Ave., Ellicott City.

The couple are survived by three other sons, Austin D. Twigg IV of Tuscarora in Frederick County, Jonathon Stewart Twigg of Woodlawn, and Dr. Charles Bayliss Twigg of Berryville, Va.; another daughter, Mary Austine Twigg-James of King George, Va.; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
39°