Mary B. "Wesi" Price, a social worker who helped establish the social work department at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, died Saturday of dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Maples of Towson, an assisted-living facility. She was 88.
She was born Mary Louise Baldwin into a prominent Baltimore County political family. Her father, H. Streett Baldwin, entered politics in 1928, "spurred by his disgust at the anti-Catholic venom directed against presidential candidate Al Smith," said Mrs. Price's daughter Barbara Percival of Washington.
Mr. Baldwin served in the Maryland Legislature from 1931 to 1934 and was a member of the Baltimore County Commissioners from 1934 to 1942. From 1943 to 1947, he was a Democratic U.S. congressman from Baltimore County, and was a Baltimore County Commissioner again from 1950 until his death two years later.
Mrs. Price's mother, Mary Smith Baldwin, oversaw the operation of the family farm in Hydes and had served for years as dog license commissioner for Baltimore County.
After graduating from Towson High School in 1941, Mrs. Price enrolled at Goucher College where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1945. She then went to work as a social worker.
In 1946, she married her childhood sweetheart, Robert "Rocky" Price, a civil engineer. The couple settled into a home on Glen Ellen Court in the Loch Raven neighborhood of Baltimore County, where they lived for 56 years and raised their family.
Mrs. Price stopped working after the birth of her first child, but was influenced to return to work after her book club read and discussed Betty Friedan's landmark book, "The Feminine Mystique," in the early 1960s.
Mrs. Price, whose four brothers gave her the nickname of "Wesi," "learned at an early age to be independent, self-reliant, and how not to throw a ball like a girl," Ms. Percival said. "She was a closet feminist who always believed that women could and should accomplish as much as men, and she passed that message on to her children and grandchildren."
She was one of the original social workers hired when Greater Baltimore Medical Center opened in 1965 in Towson.
"My memory of her is that she was an enthusiastic, kind, compassionate, warm woman whose primary interest and concern was with patient care," said Barbara Tassone, a nurse-practitioner in GBMC's interventional radiology department.
"Never did I call her or talk to her when she wasn't immediately available to take care of a problem. She was never hesitant to drop everything and do whatever was necessary," she said.
"Her children often protested when cases at the hospital made her late to pick them up after school activities, but they later came to realize that she would not shirk her responsibility to make sure problems were solved and people cared for before she left work," Ms. Percival recalled.
Mrs. Price retired in 1988.
She retained a lifelong interest in politics and had volunteered for years with the League of Women Voters. She also encouraged political discussions around her dinner table.
She was a "strong believer in the ability to stand up to society and say, 'No, that's wrong,' when something is morally unjust," said Katherine Ross, a granddaughter who lives in Washington.
"When she attended the Million Mom March with me in 2000, she expressed regret that she had not been active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s," Ms. Percival said. "In 2008, she proudly displayed a 'Women for Obama' sticker on the bumper of her car."
Mrs. Price and her husband were world travelers, and in 1961 spent a year in England, where "one of her proudest accomplishments was getting her drivers' license," said her husband.
Since 1983, the couple spent summers in Oxford in Talbot County, where they enjoyed sailing, biking and fishing.
Mrs. Price also liked entertaining family and friends and was especially known for her Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners, family members said.
Mrs. Price was a longtime member of Maryland Presbyterian Church in Towson.
Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.
In addition to her husband, daughter and granddaughter, Mrs. Price is survived by a son, Robert "Chip" Price Jr. of Beverly Farms, Mass.; another daughter, Patricia Ross of Baldwin; three grandsons; and three other granddaughters.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun