Marian Shriver McSherry, long-time devotee of Maryland's Catholic aristocracy and mother of 12 children, died on July 24 of breast cancer at her home in Frederick. She was 85.

A second cousin of R. Sargent Shriver, Marian Macsherry was born in Baltimore and grew up in Roland Park, spending her summers at Union Mills, the Shriver family homestead. She graduated from Noroton School of the Sacred Heart in Noroton, Conn., and attended Manhattanville College in New York for one year before she got married.

In 1945, Miss Macsherry's brother brought home a distant cousin, Lt. James McSherry of the United States Navy, whom he had met in Washington. Just weeks later, Lieutenant McSherry would take the family reunion further, engaging in a brief courtship of Miss Macsherry.

"They went for a walk around the block, and came back engaged," said Natalie McSherry, one of nine daughters the couple would raise together.

Miss Macsherry married Mr. McSherry in 1946 at what is now the Basilica of the Assumption, in Baltimore. The couple moved two years later to Frederick, Mr. McSherry's hometown, where they lived out 59 years of marriage and the rest of their lives. Mr. McSherry, an attorney and decorated veteran of World War II, died in 2004.

After Mrs. McSherry was married, she lived a life devoted to her family and her Catholic faith. Mrs. McSherry, one of six children, and her husband always wanted to have a large family, Natalie McSherry said. "They liked family, and they did it in spades, and style," she said.

In 1960, Mrs. McSherry received the "Catholic Mother of the Year" award from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Natalie McSherry said Mrs. McSherry "didn't think [the award] was a big deal."

"One thing she wasn't, was impressed with herself," Natalie McSherry said.

Mrs. McSherry's proudest moments were receiving an honor from Pope John Paul II in the bestowal of Pro Ecclesia in 1996 at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen, in Baltimore; and when she and her husband were named the recipients of the 1982 Cornerstone Award from Friends of Catholic Education for their work in support of Catholic education in Frederick County.

"They were very committed to Catholic education, and anything having to do with the church they were very proud of," said Natalie McSherry. "They were committed to doing what they thought was God's work, which was taking care of anybody who needed anything."

Mrs. McSherry, said to have attended Mass nearly every day, was a fixture in the parish of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in downtown Frederick, where she worshiped since the 1940s. She was also an active member of the Sodality at St. John's, the Catholic Daughters, the Catholic Evidence League, Birthright, and the St. John's Cemetery Committee. She also served in the Maryland Historical Society, and volunteered at local Frederick organizations.

"If I had to sum up her life, I would say she was a strong woman of faith," said the Rev. Dick Murphy of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. "She was very aware of everyone's dignity as a creation of God, a child of God, and treated everyone accordingly."

For 18 years, Father Murphy said, Mrs. McSherry would visit parishioners who could not attend Mass to pray with them, and bring them Communion. He said Mrs. McSherry was "always looking for ways that the parish could be better, and working to try and make that happen," donating generously to the church.

Mrs. McSherry's generosity also extended to several Catholic institutions throughout Maryland.

Mr. and Mrs. McSherry established scholarships for Catholic education at St. John's Regional Catholic School in Frederick; St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in Baltimore; and Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg. She and her husband also served on the Rector's Council at Mount St. Mary's Seminary.

In what her daughter called the "yin to her yang," Mrs. McSherry was known to be "fearless," continuing her love of zip lining and parasailing, even after her 80th birthday. She also enjoyed the beach, golfing and traveling. She traveled all over the world to visit her children and grandchildren, including Korea, China and London.

Mrs. McSherry also planned an annual trip to the beach for her children and grandchildren, a tradition that will continue. The family will travel to Cape May next week.

She is survived by her siblings: Clinton K. and Mary Eleanor Macsherry; John H. and Frances Macsherry; Charles O'Donnell and Louise Macsherry; and Emily and Ed Belt.

Mrs. McSherry is also survived by her 30 grandchildren, and her 12 children and their spouses: James and Mary McSherry of Erdenheim, Pa.; Carbery and John Caron of Lebanon, Conn.; Natalie McSherry of Baltimore; Cary and Clint Black of Lutherville; Clinton and Frances McSherry of Durham, N.C.; Michael and Frances McSherry of Newton, Mass.; Kate and John Brigham of Hull, Mass; Ann and Jim Chafey of El Cajon, Calif.; Madgie and Mark McGaughan of Comus, Md.; Chris McSherry and Fred Hopkins of Baltimore; Molly and Brian Craig of London, England; and Paddy and Chuck Morton of Baltimore.

A Memorial Mass was held Friday at her church.


Baltimore Sun reporter Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.