Gordia Lanman, a retired department store manager who was honored for her volunteer work, died June 7 of complications from a stroke at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg. The one-time Original Northwood and Towson resident was 98.
Born Allie Gordia Stout on Elm Avenue in Hampden, she was the daughter of a fire insurance salesman and a homemaker. She completed the 10th grade in Baltimore's public schools and married Elmer Lee Arthur, an airplane mechanic, at age 17.
"His mother and uncle moved in with them not long after they married in the Depression of the 1930s. My grandmother often spoke of how they felt lucky having 25 cents left over at the end of a week," said Mrs. Lanman's granddaughter, Sarah Bernstein of Derwood. "She worked at a factory in downtown Baltimore sewing men's ties for 25 cents a dozen."
During World War II, she worked in the personnel department at the old Glenn L. Martin aircraft manufacturing firm in Middle River.
"After the war, she was instructed that when the boys came home, she was to fire everyone — and herself last," her granddaughter said. "She was an incredible, wild woman. She told me the way you keep going in life is to be in service to others."
She then took a job at the old Hochschild Kohn department store at Howard and Lexington streets, where she worked for 28 years. She spent much of her time at its complaint desk, known as the bureau of adjustments. She rose to become a manager of the downtown store before she retired in 1974.
"She was a great mediator, and she could calm a customer down," her granddaughter said. "She could make sure a person was happy."
She was active for many years at Pimlico Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday school and organized congregational breakfasts and dinners.
After the death of her husband, she married John Donaldson, general manager of the Hochschild stores. He was a Mason and she became involved with the Order of the Eastern Star and its charities. She became Queen of the Zitta Temple, Daughters of the Nile. She was also an Eastern Star matron.
According to a 1988 Evening Sun article about her extensive volunteer work, she and her husband shared two churches. She then belonged to Calvary Baptist in Towson and he to Lovely Lane Methodist on St. Paul Street. She belonged to women's groups at each congregation.
They lived on Argonne Drive in Original Northwood. She was a past president of the Northwood Garden Club, and she raised azaleas.
She also volunteered at the League for the Handicapped, serving twice as women's auxiliary president. She also was chairwoman of a fundraiser that she devised, an annual fur sale, which she ran for many years. The Fur Elephant Sale attracted many buyers who wanted to purchase donated fur coats and wraps.
"It was an incredible success," her granddaughter said. "There were lines around the block for the sale. She negotiated with the furriers, who donated coats but also cleaned and stored them."
In 1990, she was named the city's Woman of the Year by the Baltimore Commission for Women. She was also recognized in a Maryland House of Delegates and Senate resolution for her "outstanding volunteerism" in creating a top fundraising event.
"I don't know what I'd do with my life if I weren't busy," she said in the 1988 Evening Sun article.
In 1990, she and her husband moved to Asbury Methodist Village. Mr. Donaldson died in 1992.
"She met a wonderful man who encouraged her to start volunteering again at the village where they lived," her granddaughter said. "She and Harold Lanman married July 25, 1997. Harold was 79 years old and Gordia was 84 years old. It was a marriage in the twilight of their lives. She had been married for a total of 63 years to three different but equally wonderful men."
Mr. Lanman died in 2008.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Grace United Methodist Church, 119 N. Frederick Ave. in Gaithersburg.
In addition to her granddaughter, survivors include three other grandchildren. Her daughter, Betty Lee Moore, died in 2002.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun