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GENEROUS IN SPIRIT Body donors honored in gravesite service


SYKESVILLE -- The family of Julia Powers hopes someone out there is able to see better because of her.

Or perhaps because of Mrs. Powers, there will be a better chance for survival for patients of three of her granddaughters or her son-in-law -- all nurses at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Mrs. Powers was 83 and resided in Baltimore when she died last October. As she had arranged, her body went to the Anatomy Board of Maryland for research, medical training and cornea and skin transplants.

"Her eyes were better than mine -- she could read street signs," said her son, William Powers, a Towson lawyer.

A service was held yesterday at the gravesite where the ashes of Mrs. Powers and about 500 other donors were buried the week before.

The service is held each year for donors whose bodies have been used by Maryland's public and private medical schools and teaching hospitals over the past year.

The grave is at the Springfield Hospital Center, which happened to have a pleasant and large enough piece of state-owned land available in 1974 when the Anatomy Board started the burial service. The board is part of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and has offices and labs at the University of Maryland Medical School.

Mr. Powers said his mother's main reason for donating her body was to save her family the expense of a funeral. "I think she did it because she was poor most of her life, and she didn't want to be a burden to anyone," Mr. Powers said.

"She did say that if she could help someone else, she would want to [be a donor]," said granddaughter Judy Boyle of Sykesville, a nurse at Shock Trauma. Mrs. Boyle came to the service with two of her three sisters and their 10 children.

Mrs. Powers' large family joined about 50 other people at the service yesterday.

Three women who came said that their mother, Roberta Moseley, had decided to be a donor after one of them received a cornea transplant in 1976. Until she died at 74 last November, she lived in Centreville on the Eastern Shore.

Ruth "Bunny" Sears, now of Annapolis, is blind because of glaucoma, but the corneal transplant did help her at the time, she said. Mrs. Sears attended the service with her two sisters, Joan Callahan and Penny Harshaw, and their families.

"At first, we were apprehensive about what was going to happen to her," Mrs. Callahan said. She said she often called the Anatomy Board to ask questions about what her mother's body was being used for, and where. "I really had a hard time dealing with this," she said. "I would call and ask her stupid things."

But she said that the woman she always spoke with was helpful and told her about the use of her mother's skin for grafts, and tissue for research on diabetes and Parkinson's disease, two conditions she had. "After they finished with mother, and she was cremated, they sent a letter," Mrs. Callahan said.

The actual burial was done a week before the service by Springfield grounds workers. The ashes are buried on a long, shady knoll.

Mrs. Callahan said that her mother specifically wanted to be buried at the Springfield site -- a photograph had come with the brochure and donor document her mother had signed. "She loved trees, so she would be ecstatic," she said.

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