A Clarksville resident who pioneered integration efforts in Howard County and established local chapters of the American Red Cross and American Cancer Society is being remembered as a woman with a good sense of humor and endless enthusiasm.
Alma Lauriente died Monday, Oct. 31 of complications from a stroke at the Gilchrist Center, in Columbia. She was 86.
"She was a people's person," said her husband, Michael, 89. "She loved people. That was just her."
Lauriente was born Nov. 24, 1924 in West Hampton, N.Y. A resident of Howard County since 1956, she was a member of numerous organizations in the county and founded the Howard County Chapter of the American Red Cross in 1973. In 1978, the Baltimore Regional Chapter of the American Red Cross honored her with the William J. Casey Award for her work.
During the 1950s and '60s, Lauriente was involved in efforts to integrate the county's restaurants, her husband said, going into the restaurants with black residents and demanding to be served.
She was "a person who was committed to the social justice of equality," former County Council member C. Vernon Gray recalled.
Lauriente was an active volunteer in the community for more than 30 years, her husband said. She helped found the Howard County American Cancer Society and spearheaded the Red Cross Blood Donor Program in the county with the bloodmobile, started in 1968.
She also served on the board of directors of Howard County General Hospital and was elected to the Board of Incorporators in 1977 and was a member of the Clarksville Lions Club and the Women's Club of Howard County. Additionally, she was a member of the Home Health Board of Howard County and vice commander of the American Legion in Howard County.
"She was a very busy woman," Michael Lauriente said. "A very vivacious, dynamic person. She had the drive. She loved to work with people and do things for people."
Alma Lauriente left many of her volunteer positions when she was diagnosed with lupus 20 years ago, her husband said. She also stopped swimming, a sport she had enjoyed for decades.
Lauriente was a two-time gold-medal winner in the Maryland Senior Olympics for the 500-meter freestyle, in 1985 and 1988. A wrist injury kept her from trying out for the Olympics in 1943, her husband said, but she had continued to swim.
But one day, Michael Lauriente said, his wife found she couldn't swim the length of a pool. From then on, her activities tapered off, and she never swam again.
"I loved watching her swim," Michael Lauriente said. "When she was in that pool, no one could come near her."
In addition to her husband, Lauriente is survived by a son, Michael, of Rockville, and two grandchildren.