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Mary Jean Travers, athlete, coach and world traveler

Mary Jean Travers, an athlete who was named to her high school's hall of fame, died Sept. 5.
Mary Jean Travers, an athlete who was named to her high school's hall of fame, died Sept. 5. (HANDOUT)

Mary Jean Travers, an athlete who was named to her high school's hall of fame and was later a world traveler, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease Sept. 5 at Symphony Manor. She had lived in the Hampton section of Towson and was 85.

Born in Baltimore and knownas "MJ," she was the daughter of Frank G. Schenuit, who founded a rubber and tire firm, and Hilda Koester, whose family owned a well-known commercial bakery. Raised in Guilford, she was a 1950 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School and attended what is now Barry University in Florida.

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"We would sit in the balcony at LeClerc Hall and watch her do her high dives. She was courageous," said Susanne Nichols, a friend who recalled Mrs. Travers' exploits in the Notre Dame pool. "She was a natural. She had no fears."

In her freshman year at Notre Dame, she played on four varsity teams — field hockey, basketball, tennis and swimming. She competed in numerous swimming events and won ribbons in the diving category. She also competed at the Meadowbrook swimming pool and at the Gibson Island Club, where her name appears on its record board.

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"She came up in the fourth grade — I was new in the school — she made me feel right at home, and we remained friends," said Carol Quillen Rudolphi, a Baltimore resident. 'I recall that day. She had blond curly hair in ringlets. She was outgoing and personable."

In 2016 she was honored at Notre Dame Prep when the school's tennis courts were named for her. She had been an assistant tennis coach at the school and was inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.

"Mary Jean Travers earned the admiration and respect of her teammates and all who met her," said Sister Patricia McCarron, Notre Dame headmistress. "It was not only because of her athletic success and success in life but because of how she played the game. … She was a great teammate."

She met her future husband, Oliver Slater Travers Jr., while vacationing at Ocean City. The couple married in 1952. She worked briefly for her father at Schenuit Rubber in Woodberry and was a model with the Loren Walters Academy. She was photographed for Bethlehem Steel Corp. ads that appeared in Time and Newsweek magazines.

Mrs. Travers went on to compete in tennis at the Baltimore Country Club and the Island Country Club in Marco Island, Fla.

She began her travels in 1952 with a lengthy trip to South America. After raising her family, she canoed the boundary waters of Minnesota and Canada. She was a certified scuba diver and made dives in the Caymans and the Great Barrier Reef. She was also an accomplished skier and made to trips to Jackson Hole, Wyo., Taos, N.M., and Switzerland.

"My mother was an adventurous lady. She trekked in Nepal at Kala Patthar," where she viewed Mount Everest at 18,700 feet, said her son, Robert S. Travers of Towson. "She was also an accomplished bike rider."

Shorty after China opened to the West in the 1970s, she bicycled more than 100 miles in that country. She also cycled through parts of New Zealand and Australia with family members on an around-the-world trip. She later spoke of her travels at local clubs. She also traveled overland from India into Pakistan.

Mrs. Travers was a founder of Baltimore's Clean Harbor Committee, and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke honored her for her work.

"My mother stressed to her children the need to seek to be the best in everything you engage in." said her son. "She also said honesty and integrity are the highest qualities to exude. She said to give back to society is a duty, not an option."

She and her husband established a family charitable trust, the Mary Jean and Oliver Travers Foundation, which distributes funds to Baltimore's needy.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 20 at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

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In addition to her son, she is survived by her husband of 65 years, the president of Schenuit Investments; two daughters, Jean Travers Goodwin and Joan Travers Ottenritter, both of Towson; eight grandchildren; and four great-granddchildren. A son, Thomas S.Travers, died in 2005.

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