She kept an herb garden back in the '50s, before it was fashionable, and used it to season everything headed for the family table. When her antique dining room chairs wore down, she crafted floral needlepoint patterns to cover the seats.
Her pies were stuffed with sour Bing cherries, never anything fake. She made English toffees, butter creams, and divinity candy, topped her cheesecake with sour cream, and spiked her Italian meatball sauce with beer.
Blue ribbons came year after year at the Maryland State Fair, honoring Elizabeth Clubb Shay for her baked delicacies, needlepoint and quilts.
"She was the original June Cleaver," said her daughter, E. Katharyn Shay of Columbia. "She loved being a mother, a wife, doing things for the community, running her kids here and there. She did everything from scratch -- I don't think she ever used a mixer and she loved having a good time."
Mrs. Shay of Upperco died Saturday at Howard County General Hospital of complications from lung disease. She was 79.
The Kentucky-born mother of two picked her lifelong passions early, as a music and home economics major at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.
She married Harry L. Shay in 1940 and moved to Owings Mills, where they remained 20 years, except for a brief stint in New York. In 1965 they moved to Upperco.
An accomplished pianist, Mrs. Shay often found herself surrounded by family members singing Gershwin show tunes, Christmas carols and "My Old Kentucky Home," one of her favorites.
At Glyndon United Methodist Church, she sang in the choir and served for a time as chairwoman of the music committee. Eleanor Taylor, a friend from Glyndon, remembers how Mrs. Shay tackled the job of hiring a new organist.
"She didn't leave a stone unturned," Mrs. Taylor said. "She got a lot of information about them, their past performances, how reliable they were. I thought, wow, when she does something it's thoroughly done."
Mrs. Shay was active in charity work, Girl Scouts and the PTA, a longtime member of Eastern Star, the women's service group, and the Woman's Club of Glyndon. In recent years, she served on the board of directors for the Baltimore Adhesive and Lewis Marr corporations, two companies founded by her husband.
She was also a crackerjack bridge player, sweeping numerous tournaments. Her husband, Harry L. Shay, laughs about the time she filled their 200-year-old Williamsburg-style house with card tables for a charity bridge party for 80 guests.
"I told her, 'You're not going to put them in my bedroom,' " he said. "She even put a bridge table in there -- she said they weren't playing, just keeping score" for the party.
"She was a wonderful, wonderful woman," Mr. Shay said. "Everybody liked her. She did everything."
Along with her husband and her daughter, Mrs. Shay is survived by another daughter, JoAnn Shay O'Neill, son-in-law Robert J. O'Neill, granddaughter Shayna O'Neill, all of Columbia; brother John B. Clubb of Pleasureville, Ky.; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Glyndon United Methodist Church, followed by graveside prayers at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Finksburg.
Pub Date: 5/26/98