Adeline Ogier Bracken, a multi-talented athlete who earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics when few women attended college and went on to raise 10 children, died Tuesday of heart failure at Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium. She was 96.
Mrs. Bracken, born Adeline Ogier and raised in Baltimore's Roland Park, was inducted into the athletic Hall of Fame of both her high school and college, her family said. She excelled at many sports.
As a child she sailed and swam during summers at Gibson Island. As a student at Roland Park Country School, she lettered in field hockey, lacrosse, basketball and tennis before graduating in 1933. And at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, Mrs. Bracken was the scholar athlete of her graduating class of 1937, again lettering in four sports and three times achieving the title of tennis champion, her family said.
The summer before earning her mathematics degree, Mrs. Bracken made what proved to be a memorable, untimely visit to a classmate's home in Spain. She arrived the day of the military coup that touched off the Spanish Civil War.
Mrs. Bracken and her host family escaped the country — and house arrest — by fleeing over the Pyrenees mountains into France, her children said.
"She was back just a little late to start her senior year," said a daughter, Mary Neale of Baltimore, who wrote a college paper about the incident.
Mrs. Bracken, who went by Addie, married in 1939 to Thomas E. Bracken. A talented athlete himself, Mr. Bracken had day after day walked to class at what is now Loyola University Maryland along the same route that his future wife took to get to Notre Dame.
"I don't know how many days she drove by and saw this man walking up to Loyola College, but eventually they met," said another daughter, Terri Fromme Blatchley, who lives in Towson.
Mr. Bracken eventually became an attorney and later an administrative law judge, but Mrs. Bracken had to exercise all her skills in frugality to make the finances work when their children were young and he had not yet finished law school. The growing family did not go on vacation. Eating out was limited to a once-yearly stop at a diner on the way home from visiting a relative.
"They didn't have a car; she pulled a wagon to the grocery store every day," Mrs. Blatchley recalled. "She made all our food from scratch. She made our clothes."
The one luxury — a membership at Stoneleigh Pool — underscored the importance both husband and wife placed on athletics and good health. They also valued education, sending all 10 of their children to college.
"We were expected to do our very best at everything, but she didn't really care if we won things," Mrs. Blatchley said. "It was putting out your best effort [that mattered]. She expected a lot of herself and she expected a lot from us, but never more than we could do."
By the end of her life, Mrs. Bracken was the matriarch of a considerable extended family, with 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Bracken's love of sports didn't fade as she aged. She competed in the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen mothers' club bowling league until she was 85. And she watched a golf tournament and the Super Bowl with great interest two days before her death.
Kitty Bracken was a child when she met Addie Bracken and was briefly coached by her in high school. Their lives intersected over and over: They married into the same family, played bridge together, both volunteered in Girl Scouts and in recent years lived one floor apart at Mercy Ridge.
Kitty Bracken remembers her sister-in-law as "brilliant," always busy, unfailingly nice. And a sportswoman among sportswomen.
"She was a great athlete," she said.
Mrs. Bracken was predeceased by her husband, who died in 2004, as well as one daughter, Barbara McDonnell, who died in 1992. She also outlived her three sisters, Louise Howard, Margaret Maddox and Helen Gibbons; and her brother, Herbert L. Ogier Jr.
In addition to daughters Mary Neale and Terri Blatchley, she is survived by seven children: Jane Mace of Lakehurst in Baltimore County; Connie Shockley of Towson; Clare Strange of New Zealand; Joseph Bracken of Falls Church, Va.; Elizabeth Elliott of Wilton, Conn.; Matthew Bracken of Orange Park, Fla.; and Patricia Forman of Suffolk, Va.
A Mass of Christian burial was offered on Saturday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, where Mrs. Bracken was an active parishioner for more than 50 years.
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