Louise Elizabeth Dell, a stalwart member of volunteer firefighters ladies' auxiliaries at the state, county and local levels and a retired federal highway employee, died of cancer June 6 at her home in Savage. She was 76.
Born in Baltimore, Louise Reed was a 1947 graduate of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, then worked as a clerk-typist with the Central Intelligence Agency from 1947 until 1951. She joined the federal Bureau of Public Roads, later the Federal Highway Administration under the Department of Transportation, leaving in 1957 and rejoining the bureau in 1961. She served as a secretary and clerk and held other positions with the National Driver Register Service before retiring in 1986.
For more than 40 years, Mrs. Dell was active in the Maryland Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders, serving as its president for 12 years and as executive director for four years. She was a vice president and Region III director in the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders, a nonprofit group working to reduce death and injury on the nation's roads through education and advocacy, according to its Web site.
Although Mrs. Dell received a diagnosis of liver cancer in October, she went to Annapolis as office manager for the Maryland State Firemen's Association Legislative Office for the opening of the General Assembly this year, monitoring legislation that might affect firefighters, said Peggy A. Webb of Frederick, a friend of 40 years who took on the office manager's job with Mrs. Dell's help.
"We would go through all the bills that came out, looking for ones that affected fire and rescue services in the state of Maryland," said Mrs. Webb. The two women met as members of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Ladies' Auxiliary, and both of their husbands were firefighters.
Mrs. Dell served as president of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Maryland State Firemen's Association in 1975, held numerous other posts and served on committees. She also was assistant secretary for the Maryland State Firemen's Association. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame of both organizations.
In addition to her 12 years with the Montgomery County association, Mrs. Dell served in the ladies' auxiliaries of volunteer companies in Burtonsville, Lansdowne, Silver Spring and Hyde Park. She also held several offices in the ladies' auxiliary of the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen's Association.
She was recording secretary for many years for the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen's Association, comprising Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, which twice honored her for outstanding service and named her its Fire Person of the Year in 2002.
Mrs. Dell was married in 1950 to John Willard Dell, who died in 1983. Mr. Dell was a member of both the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department and the Lansdowne Volunteer Fire Association, said their son, Thomas Whitney Dell of Savage, also a volunteer firefighter.
"We are a volunteer fire company family," he said.
In a written eulogy, Mrs. Webb said, "Louise became interested in the fire service when John joined the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department. It seemed every time she needed him for something, he was at the firehouse. Finally in self defense, she joined the Burtonsville ladies auxiliary in 1964. Now the shoe was on the other foot: She was always at the firehouse."
Fire and rescue equipment from both Burtonsville and Lansdowne was present at Mrs. Dell's funeral Friday, and Lansdowne has named its new advanced life support medic unit in her honor, her son said.
"She helped to pull them back together," Mrs. Webb said of the Lansdowne company, which also named Mrs. Dell its ladies' auxiliary president emeritus.
"Louise didn't just join an organization just to be a member," Mrs. Webb said. "She joined and became a leader. ... She gave good guidance. She could take the most meager job and make something of it."
In addition to her son, Mrs. Dell is survived by a daughter, Ruth Louise Dell of Radcliff, Ky.; a stepdaughter, Maria E. Dell of Tennessee; three stepsons, John W. Dell of Hawaii, and Ronald T. Dell and Gary W. Dell, both of Baltimore; three grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.