Sylvia L. Levin, 90, travel agent, painter


Sylvia L. Levin, a former travel agent who took up painting late in life, died of heart failure Wednesday at her Pikesville home. She was 90.

Born Sylvia Livingston in Baltimore, the daughter of immigrants from Lithuania was raised on Linden Avenue near Druid Hill Lake.

She attended Western High School and studied ballet at the Peabody Conservatory until being stricken with rheumatic fever, which forced her to withdraw from school and kept her bedridden for a year.

She worked briefly before her 1933 marriage to Harold J. Levin, a pharmacist who later worked at Livingston's, his father-in-law's pawnshop on East Baltimore Street. Mr. Levin died in 1994.

To help put her sons through college, Mrs. Levin began baking and selling pies from her home for private parties.

"She was called the 'Pie Lady' and was especially known for her chocolate and lemon chiffon pies," said a son, Dr. Michael L. Levin of Owings Mills, who is a Baltimore infectious disease specialist and internist.

When another son, Stanley "Buzzy" Levin, of Owings Mills established a Pikesville travel agency, she went to work planning and leading trips around the world for clients. After retiring from the business in 1985, she continued arranging trips for family and friends and often went along.

"She was a real Auntie Mame character and an inveterate world traveler," Dr. Levin said.

Looking for something else to do during her retirement years, Mrs. Levin decided to paint and found that she derived "great pleasure from it," she told the Baltimore Jewish Times in an interview last month.

At the urging of friends and her sons, Mrs. Levin held an art show in her apartment and was surprised that she sold more than $1,000 worth of paintings.

"I couldn't believe it. I was very pleasantly surprised at how many paintings were sold at that showing," she said in the interview.

Mrs. Levin, who was largely self-taught, said her work was influenced by the Impressionists of the 19th century. She had worked in oils but changed to acrylics, which dried faster and didn't emit any odor.

"She completed her last painting two weeks ago but was too weak to sign it," Dr. Levin said.

Mrs. Levin was a member of the Har Sinai Congregation and had been president of the Miriam Lodge. She was also a charter member of the Chestnut Ridge Country Club.

She liked golfing, playing bridge and attending opera and symphony performances.

Services for Mrs. Levin will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to her sons, Mrs. Levin is survived by another son, Dr. Stephen Levin of Owings Mills; two sisters, Anita Needle and Sonia Marcus, both of Baltimore; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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