Holly R. Gustafson, an investment analyst with Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. who specialized in e-commerce companies, died of ovarian cancer Friday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Reisterstown resident was 55.
In 1978, she earned a master's degree in city and regional planning from Catholic University of America in Washington, and a year later her master's in business from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
A vivacious individual with a talent for number-crunching and working long hours, Ms. Gustafson began her investment career in 1982 as an oil analyst for Howard Weil, Labouisse, Fredrichs Inc. in New Orleans.
She later worked in a similar capacity for John S. Herold & Co. in Greenwich, Conn., before joining NatWest Securities in New York City in 1987.
In addition to analyzing publicly traded oil and natural gas companies, Ms. Gustafson prepared investment reports that were marketed to institutional clients.
She became a chartered financial analyst in 1988, then interrupted her business career in 1989 after having a child, Heather Leigh Gustafson.
She took advantage of that time to complete graduate studies in accounting and taxation at Pace University and the University of Connecticut, and became a certified public accountant in 1992.
In 1993, she resumed her career in NatWest's Baltimore office. Promoted to vice president, she continued analyzing energy regulations and oil company financial statements. In addition to writing investment reports, she made presentations to institutional clients and the energy industry.
She left NatWest in 1998 and worked for a year as an equity analyst at BT Alex. Brown Inc. before joining Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in 1999.
"Holly was one of the most versatile and intelligent research analysts I have known. Her soft-spoken manner belied a brilliant investment intellect," said James D. Hardesty, president of the Baltimore firm Hardesty Capital Management.
"During the recent stock market correction, her exhaustive analysis of Amazon.com determined the company's business model was viable and correctly forecast the stock's sharp recovery," he said.
"She was a most perceptive analyst and was as articulate a person as I have ever known. She was indeed an extraordinary woman," said Francis J. Reinhardt Jr., a partner with Carl H. Pforzheimer, a New York-based brokerage firm, and a friend for 20 years.
"She was a joy to work with. She was brilliant and a hard worker," said Ira H. Malis, senior vice president and director of equity research at Legg Mason.
Ms. Gustafson was found to have ovarian cancer in 2000.
"She went through all of the treatments and even seemed to make a slight recovery. And through all of this, she kept on working. She worked hard at getting a few more years than she clinically had any right to expect. We're all going to miss her," Mr. Malis said.
Her sister Svea G. Fraser of Wellesley, Mass., a pastoral counselor, recalled her sister's valiant struggle.
"Legg Mason didn't let her go because she was ill. They treated her with dignity. She was still working her accounts until the bitter end. They even allowed her to work from home. It kept her going. It gave her hope," Mrs. Fraser said.
Ms. Gustafson faced death with a mixture of courage and humor.
Last year, she made a religious pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, with the Knights of Malta and her friend Sister Margi Savage, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph and former pastoral associate at the Roman Catholic Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mount Washington.
"She was focused, resilient and deliberate. And she had a bit of playfulness and a sense of adventure when it came to her illness," Sister Savage said. "She had tumors in her neck and in the morning she'd feel them and say, 'Not cured yet.' That's the way she looked at things."
Ms. Gustafson enjoyed horseback riding and travel.
"But most of all, she loved her work," Mrs. Fraser said.
Her professional memberships included the National Association of Petroleum Analysts, Financial Analysts Federation and the Maryland Society of Certified Public Accountants.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, 5800 Smith Ave., Mount Washington.
In addition to her daughter and sister, Ms. Gustafson is survived by her parents, Kenneth and Anne Gustafson of Glastonbury; three brothers, James E. Gustafson of Glastonbury, John H. Gustafson of Arlington, Va., and Robert C. Gustafson of Windham, N.H.; another sister, Kirsten G. Krinsky of Southborough, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews.