Winifred Coughlin, a homemaker who established college scholarships in thanks for the assistance she had received as a student, died Tuesday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at King James Care Center in Chatham, N.J. The former Ednor Gardens and Homeland resident was 89.
Born Mary Winifred Lynch in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Joseph Lynch, an accountant, and Helen Horgan Lynch, a Sun Life Insurance Co. receptionist and telephone operator. The family lived on Springfield Avenue in the Pen Lucy neighborhood.
She was a 1942 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame, where she was senior class president.
"Her yearbook called her 'winsome, witty Winnie,' said a daughter, Meaghan C. Williams of San Antonio. "My mother had a lifelong love of learning."
She said that her mother was thrilled to hear during her senior year of high school that she had received a half-scholarship to what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University.
"But she remembered her deep disappointment and confusion over her own mother's reaction when she called to share this great news. Her mother burst into tears," her daughter said. "She cried because she knew she couldn't afford even half the tuition, and she understood how important this educational opportunity was to her daughter. My grandmother was a single working mother— somewhat unusual in the early 1940s."
However, by the time Mrs. Coughlin returned home that day, her mother had some good news: A co-worker — a Sun Life Insurance executive — had offered to pay the remaining part of the tuition.
Mrs. Coughlin completed two years at Notre Dame. In 1944, she gave up her college education when she married Patrick J. Coughlin Jr. She moved to California immediately after her wedding as her husband began naval duty in the Pacific during World War II.
"Before leaving, my parents met with my grandmother's colleague, whose generosity had allowed her the privilege of attending college," her daughter said. "Although they couldn't afford it then, they promised to repay him over time. When the gentleman refused their commitment, he asked that they repay the favor by offering their assistance to someone else when their circumstances allowed."
Mrs. Coughlin did not forget the request. She and her husband, who became an attorney and chairman of Liberty Federal Savings and Loan, started giving scholarships to Notre Dame in the 1980s. At her death, she was still providing funds for scholarships, which have helped 14 students attend the school.
"She was thrilled over the years to receive letters from students who were recipients of the scholarships," her daughter said.
In the 1980s, Mrs. Coughlin returned to college after a 40-year hiatus. She was required to write papers, which she composed in longhand on legal pads because she had never learned to type. She then asked friends, often nuns at St. Mary's School in Govans, to type them for her.
She never earned the diploma, her daughter said, but she was still named a trustee associate of the school.
On her 85th birthday, Mrs. Coughlin was awarded the President's Medal in recognition of her lifetime of service and commitment to the mission of Notre Dame. At the time, Notre Dame's president, Mary Pat Seurkamp, described Mrs. Coughlin as representing "the very best of what a Notre Dame education provides — learning, leadership and service to others."
The Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, recalled Mrs. Coughlin, a family friend: "Winnie had a great sense of gratitude. She also had a serenity about her life. She was a light to a lot of people."
Mrs. Coughlin enjoyed traveling with her husband. She spent summers at Ocean City with her children and grandchildren.
Family members said Mrs. Coughlin was not a cook. She enjoyed dining at the old Love's Restaurant in Charles Village and at the Golden Arm on York Road. She was a former member of the Baltimore Country Club and Country Club of Maryland.
She lived on Springlake Way for nearly 40 years and later lived at Mercy Ridge in Timonium. In 2010, while visiting her daughter in New Jersey, she suffered a fall and did not return to Baltimore.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Saturday at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, 42nd Street and Old York Road.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Sean M. Coughlin, of Berlin in Worcester County; another daughter, Eileen Bress of New Bern, N.C.; and six grandchildren. Her husband of 55 years, Patrick J. Coughlin Jr. died in 1999. A son, Patrick J. Coughlin III, died in 2012. A daughter, Barbara Coughlin Herron, died in 1999. Another daughter, Colleen Marie Coughlin, died in 1952.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun