Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Schildwachter, a retired Johns Hopkins medical researcher, died June 3 at the Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson.
The former Ruxton resident was 96.
Her daughter, Katherine E. Ward, said her mother died in her sleep.
“She was healthy until the end, and played a game of bridge the day before,” said her daughter.
Born in Baltimore and raised on East 41st Street, she was the daughter of Leonard Chinn, an accountant at Dulany-Vernay, a stationery and printing firm, and his wife, Mary Eva Milburn, a homemaker.
As a 12-year-old, she displayed a talent for music and played the piano on a radio broadcast.
“She was not a nervous radio performer. She won a prize — a discount from the Hecht Company on the Chickering upright that we had in our house all the years we were growing up,” said her daughter, who lives in Roanoke, Va. The piano served the family until 1994.
She attended Clifton Park Junior High School and graduated from Eastern High School in 1938.
She then obtained a bachelor’s degree in physiology at Goucher College, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She remained active in Goucher College fundraising and chaired class reunions for many years.
She told her children: “I had to make a choice: Spend all of my time in the library, or the laboratory. I chose the lab.”
In 1942 she took an instructor’s job at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and worked with one of its teachers, Dr. William R. Amberson. She also spent two summers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. She conducted biochemistry research with marine animals in studies related to cancer.
As a physiology instructor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, she was younger than some of her students.
“She was fearless and undaunted,” said her son, Stephen M. Smith of Brunswick, Maine.
In 1948 she married an Episcopal pastor, the Rev. F. Morgan Smith Jr., who had parishes in Halethorpe and Arbutus. They later lived in New Jersey, Ohio and Kansas, where he had assignments. They returned to Baltimore in 1966, and she and her husband settled in Ruxton.
Father Smith died in 1969 at age 47.
As a widow, she returned to medical research. She took a job at Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine as a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Herbert W. Dickerman, and held that post until 1975. She later worked at the department of biology and at the School of Hygiene and Public Health. She retired in 1989.
“She went on to co-author cancer research publications and abstracts,” said her daughter.
In 1992 she married the Rev. Austin Schildwachter, also an Episcopal priest. He died in 2002.
Mrs. Schildwachter remained busy in retirement. She traveled, played tennis and bridge and swam. She attended art, literature, and music classes at Baltimore County Community College at Essex for many years.
Family members said her calendar was full.
“On the day before her death, she walked herself to three meals at Blakehurst and had two chocolate sundaes — it had to be vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce,” said her daughter.
“Our mom was an amazing woman. She was remarkable, kind, classy and fun,” she added. “She was the most open-minded person I’ve ever known. She excelled at everything she did.
“She also loved playing the piano and organ. When we returned home as adults, music would be blaring from the stereo — choirs, classical, Frank Sinatra, show tunes — and she would be singing along.”
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer’s chapel, 5600 N. Charles St., where she was a member and sang in the choir until she was 90.
In addition to her daughter and son, survivors include another daughter, Margaret S. “Peggy” Holland, of Roanoke, Va.; three grandchildren; and three step-grandchildren.