Beatrice A. Chambliss, 88, BMA executive secretary

The Baltimore Sun

Beatrice A. Chambliss, a longtime Bolton Hill resident who had been an executive secretary to three directors of the Baltimore Museum of Art, died Tuesday of complications from emphysema at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. She was 88.

Born Beatrice Abbott in Baltimore, she was raised on Linden Avenue and graduated in 1936 from Western High School.

She was married in 1942 to Richard J. Chambliss Sr., a Bethlehem Steel Corp. executive. He died in 1960.

During the 1950s, Mrs. Chambliss was secretary to the rector of Memorial Episcopal Church in Bolton Hill. After her husband's death, she went to work as a secretary at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

When Charles L. Parkhurst was appointed director of the museum in 1962, Mrs. Chambliss became his executive secretary, and she remained in that position, working with two later directors, until she retired in 1986.

Tom L. Freudenheim, one of the subsequent directors, recalled that Mrs. Chambliss had a sunny disposition.

"She was not a prima donna, never threw any tantrums and took her work very seriously. She was discreet and never gossiped. Working with her was a great pleasure," he said.

"Bea was an old-fashioned secretary and an absolute dynamo, who came to work every day wearing a hat and white gloves. She'd come in and take off her hat and pin, and gloves, and then she was ready for work," said Arnold Lehman, who took over as director of the BMA in 1979 and left to become director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1997.

"She was a perfectionist, a stickler for doing things the proper way, and a tough gatekeeper," he said. "It's the passing of an era."

Jay Fisher, chief curator at the BMA, said that Mrs. Chambliss was the "last surviving connection to another time" at the art museum.

"Bea was exemplary when it came to handling details and anticipating problems. She was totally exacting, reliable and discreet," Mr. Fisher said. "And she could be very stern when needed, yet motherly when it came to looking after the staff."

Mr. Fisher praised Mrs. Chambliss' sense of "diplomacy" when it came to dealing with people.

"She did it in a relaxed and non-authoritarian way," he said.

For more than 50 years, Mrs. Chambliss lived in the 1400 block of John St. She moved to Oak Crest in 1996 and edited the retirement community's newspaper.

"She was the kind of person who could get people going," said Ed Nolley Jr., a longtime friend. "She cared about people and was always willing to help anyone."

She was a communicant of Memorial Episcopal Church and often returned to her former neighborhood for events.

Mrs. Chambliss enjoyed spending time at her Ocean City condominium and taking car trips.

Graveside services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Woodlawn Cemetery, 2130 Woodlawn Drive. That will be followed by a memorial service at 11:30 a.m. in the chapel at Oak Crest Village, 8820 Walther Blvd.

Surviving are a daughter-in-law, Deborah R. Chambliss of Roland Park. Her son, Richard J. Chambliss Jr., died in 2001.

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