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Jane S. Ashton

The Baltimore Sun

Jane Strawinski Ashton, who directed volunteer services at the University of Maryland Medical Center and was a former modeling academy director, died of heart disease complications Wednesday at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Parkville resident was 88.

Born Harriet Jane Tewell in Chaneysville, Pa., and raised in Philadelphia, she had a cosmetology license and worked in a beauty salon as a young woman. She also took courses at Temple University and at the Towers College for Girls in San Antonio, Texas, where she also worked as a medical secretary.

After training at the John Robert Powers modeling agency in New York, she moved to Baltimore in the 1940s, and in 1951 became associate director and later director of the old Walters Academy, a Charles Street charm and modeling school. Her photo often appeared in newspapers.

A 1954 Baltimore American feature story said Mrs. Strawinski taught the "three graces - walking, sitting and standing." The story noted that she taught her students to apply lipstick with a brush.

She appeared in numerous fashion modeling jobs and also had a spot on an episode of Wide, Wide World, a 1950s NBC Sunday afternoon television documentary.

"She was extremely attractive. At the time she was not married, she was pursued by men," said her nephew, Fred Irwin of Manchester, Pa.

She resigned from the Walters Academy in 1959, after her husband, Jay Strawinski, a pharmacist, died of leukemia. She then spent several years traveling.

"She has done many things; she's been a fashion model, an executive secretary, a director of a charm school; she's traveled all over the world; she plays the guitar, writes poetry and designs her own clothes," said a 1968 Evening Sun profile, which described her as a "brown-eyed pert blonde."

The article noted that Mrs. Strawinski, then a widow, was tapped to be the head of volunteer work at University of Maryland Medical Center in 1965. As department head, she recruited volunteers and gave community lectures.

In the Evening Sun article, she said she looked for volunteers "who would best represent the hospital in the community."

"I get a big kick out of my candy stripers when they come here. A lot of them think they want to see an operation. There is a certain amount of morbid curiosity in all of us, especially the young. But they can't."

In 1973, she established a medical secretarial internship program at the hospital and worked with local high schools to recruit students, who gained practical experience before taking paying jobs in the health care field.

She retired about 25 years ago.

After the death of her first husband, she married Alfred Ashton, an attorney. After his death, she married Robert Shaw. Mr. Shaw died nearly five years ago.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. July 7 at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Road.

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