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Victoria F. Gelfman, Howard prosecutor, dies

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Victoria F. "Vickie" Gelfman, a prosecutor in the Howard County state's attorney's office whose blog posts about her struggle with acute myeloid leukemia served as an inspiration to others, died Friday of the disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 31.

"Vickie was such a shining star. She was very gifted, talented and had a warm spirit," said Howard County District Judge Pamila J. Brown. "She had a wonderful spirit and a pleasant demeanor. And as a prosecutor, she represented the state so well."

"She was a great kid and a great clerk who ended up with her dream job, which was being a prosecutor in the Howard County state's attorney's office," said Joseph F. Murphy Jr., former chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, for whom Ms. Gelfman had served as a law clerk.

"She had been an excellent student and always had a wonderful smile and an enthusiasm for life. She had such a presence and was simply captivating in her approach to people," said John F. Fader II, a retired Baltimore County Circuit Court judge who taught Ms. Gelfman at law school. "She was a wonderful person and an excellent lawyer. This is a young death, and it has hit me very, very hard."

The daughter of Dick Gelfman, a lawyer who was formerly a reporter with WJZ-TV and WBAL-TV, and Howard County Circuit Judge Lenore Gelfman, Victoria Faye Gelfman was born in Silver Spring and raised in Columbia.

After graduating in 2000 from Wilde Lake High School, Ms. Gelfman earned a bachelor's degree in 2004 from the University of Virginia, where she had worked on a double major in foreign affairs and psychology.

She earned her law degree in 2008 from the University of Baltimore School of Law. After completing her clerkship with Judge Murphy, she worked as an attorney for the House of Ruth from 2009 to 2010, where she represented victims of domestic abuse.

"She always had an interest in the law and being an advocate for those suffering from injustice," her father said.

In 2010, Ms. Gelfman began working as a prosecutor in the Howard County state's attorney's office.

"As an assistant state's attorney, she represented the state and assisted those who were victims of crime," said Mr. Gelfman. "She was an excellent, articulate and dedicated attorney, always prepared and always seeking to look out for the best interests of her clients, and protecting the public."

Mary V. Murphy, Howard County deputy state's attorney, worked with Ms. Gelfman.

"Vickie was a very prepared zealot and advocate for victims of crime in Howard County. She did a phenomenal job for a person as young as she was," said Ms. Murphy.

"She was always well prepared and could spot issues. She was a vigorous advocate for her clients," said Ms. Murphy. "She was respected by the defense and could be a tough adversary in the courtroom."

Ms. Gelfman was known for her ability to develop close relationships with judges, defense attorneys and other prosecutors.

Fluent in Spanish, she used her communication skills in her professional role in a county with a rapidly growing Hispanic population.

Ms. Gelfman also was a founder in 2000 of Ride Across Maryland, an annual motorcycle event that has raised more than $2.5 million for the fight against breast cancer.

Ms. Gelfman was the founder of Bowling With Badges, which raised more than $8,000 for the Howard County Police Foundation to help families of injured and fallen police officers.

"With Bowling With Badges, she was able to bring all elements of the criminal justice system, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, together," said Judge Brown. "She was always willing to volunteer and give of herself."

She was also active in the Big Brothers Big Sisters and had a strong relationship with Natalie, a "little sister" in the program, family members said.

Ms. Gelfman was considered a rising figure in the Howard County Bar Association and was one of the youngest members to serve on its board.

"Her goal was to see that the organized bar reached out into the community to help those in need," said Mr. Gelfman.

She had also been elected a fellow of the Leadership Academy of the Maryland State Bar Association. The program selects up to 15 young lawyers per year who are believed to be the future leaders of the bar and who participate in a yearlong program.

Ms. Gelfman was a Ravens fan and enjoyed running and participated in the 2012 Baltimore Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

When she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in February 2013, Ms. Gelfman began writing a blog, "The Most Challenging Marathon Yet," which drew hundreds of followers.

Last year, Oprah Winfrey called to speak to Ms. Gelfman after hearing about her illness from mutual friend and veteran Baltimore broadcaster Richard Sher.

Ms. Gelfman had attended high school with Carly Hughes, one of the lead singers in the Broadway show, "Beautiful: The Carole King Story." On Aug. 10, the cast of the show made a YouTube video with Ms. Hughes holding a "We Love You Vickie" sign as they sang "Amazing Grace" to Ms. Gelfman.

On Aug. 2, Ms. Gelfman stopped treatment and medications, and in an Aug. 6 blog post, she wrote: "The things you all have said about me have been so amazing to read and I'm speaking sincerely when I say it truly has made me feel better and more at peace."

Ms. Gelfman died 18 months to the day of her diagnosis, said a sister, Hillary Gelfman of Chicago.

She was a member of Bet Aviv Congregation.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road, Columbia.

In addition to her parents, who live in Columbia, and her sister, Ms. Gelfman is survived by another sister, Joanna Hoyle of Ellicott City; a niece; and a nephew.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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