Mildred E. Banwell

Mildred E. Banwell

Mildred E. "Millie" Banwell, an artist who was a longtime supporter of the Light House shelter and an active member of Calvary United Methodist Church, died Sunday of pulmonary fibrosis at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Pasadena.

The longtime Annapolis resident was 75.

"I have a very high regard for her and we will miss her terribly. She was a great Christian lady and a leader at Calvary," said the Rev. Byron P. Brought, who pastored Calvary in Annapolis from 1992 until 2010, when he retired.

"She was the patron saint of the Light House," said Elizabeth Kinney, executive director of the Annapolis homeless shelter. "She was a person of perennial optimism, hope and joy. I considered her a mentor and am very sad at her passing."

The daughter of a businessman and an office manager, Mildred Elizabeth Costen was born in Washington and raised in Richmond, Va., where she graduated in 1955 from Thomas Jefferson High School.

After graduating in 1959 with an art degree from the Richmond Professional Institute, now Virginia Commonwealth University, Mrs. Banwell went to work in Washington as art director of the Yellow Pages. She left the Yellow Pages in 1964.

An amateur actress, Mrs. Banwell was performing with the Mount Vernon Players in Washington when she met her future husband, who was then a student at the University of Colorado.

"I met her when she was performing in the chorus line of 'Little Mary Sunshine,' and I was instantly smitten with her, let's say, and I knew I had to meet her," said her husband, James G. Banwell.

"I went back to Colorado to graduate and then got a job in Phoenix, Ariz. We married in 1965," said Mr. Banwell, a semi-retired sales consultant.

After moving to Annapolis in 1967, the couple joined Calvary, where she remained an active member until her death.

During the late 1960s, she and her husband were church youth leaders, and for many years, Mrs. Banwell was a Stephen minister at Calvary, where she counseled those who were grief-stricken, sick or separated.

In addition to her church work, Mrs. Banwell was a longtime supporter of the Light House, which is owned by Annapolis Area Ministries.

For years, she was in charge of the shelter's silent auction held at its annual Bountiful Harvest fundraising dinner.

"She was the person who engaged me through the Friends of the Light House and for three years she got me to chair the silent auction," said Ms. Kinney. "She was just a lot of fun and such a thoughtful and kind person."

When the decision was made to replace the old shelter on West Street, which the Light House had outgrown, Mrs. Banwell rose to the occasion.

"She was a wonderful, caring, loving and compassionate person," said Mr. Brought, who is now interim senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Prince Frederick.

"During the time I was at Calvary, Millie played a key role in our connection to Light House. She always had been an advocate for the homeless and collected food for the hungry," recalled Mr. Brought.

"She was a major leader in our connection to the ministry that runs the shelter, which is composed of several Annapolis churches," he said.

"She came to me and said, 'Let's sell one of our properties to help jump-start the capital campaign,'" said her husband. "A plaque on the new resource center's third floor recalls her help and is dedicated to her."

The $8.3 million shelter — now called the Light House Homeless Prevention and Support Center — opened in the fall of 2010 on nearby Hudson Street, and is able to accommodate 30 men and 15 women for stays up to 90 days.

"Light House is the only shelter in Anne Arundel County serving adults and children 365 days a year," reported The Baltimore Sun at its opening.

"She was always thinking about Light House. It was a mission with Millie and she did so much work on its behalf of the organization," said Ms. Kinney. "When I think of community service, I think of the Banwells."

Mrs. Banwell, who enjoyed painting portraits in oil, was also an accomplished potter.

"Her hobbies were her children and Light House," her husband said. "She also liked flower gardening."

A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at her church, 301 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Banwell is survived by two sons, Jamie Banwell of Loch Raven Village and Robert Banwell of Annapolis; a brother, Ralph Costen of Richmond; a sister, Carol Anne Kernodle of Danville, Va.; and seven grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com