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Sister Mary Mark Walsh

Sister Mary Mark Walsh, a retired teacher who was a member of the Sisters of Mercy for nearly 78 years, died of heart failure Saturday at the Villa, her order's Baltimore County retirement home. She was 97.

Born Ruth Anna Walsh in Baltimore County, she was the daughter of Charles S. Walsh, a farmer, and Minnie Woolrey Walsh, a homemaker.

According to a biography supplied by the Sisters of Mercy, she grew up on the family farm near the Liberty Dam. There were no Catholic schools in immediate area and she received her early religious training from the Jesuit fathers at the old Woodstock College. After graduating from Franklin High School in Reisterstown in 1934, she worked as a waitress and later as a nanny. In 1936, she entered the Sisters of Mercy at the old Mount Saint Agnes in Mount Washington, where her older sister, Blanche Elizabeth, was a member.

"Sister Mary Mark's lifetime ministry in elementary education began in 1940, and she taught steadily for fifty years in 14 parish schools throughout what was then the Baltimore Province, which then included southeastern states from Maryland to Florida," said a fellow member of the order, Sister Augusta Reilly, who lives in Baltimore.

Sister Mary Mark taught during the academic year and earned her bachelor's degree in education at Mount Saint Agnes College in 1954. She later took graduate courses at what are now Loyola University Maryland and at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

She initially taught in West Baltimore at St. Gregory's School, where she was on its faculty from 1940 to 1942.

"She was staunch but kind, was always kind and gracious and retained the old ways of Baltimore County," said a friend, the Rev. Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Church in Manchester.

Members of her order said that a few years later, she and another sister were sent to open St. John's School in Warrington, Fla.

"The conditions there made them feel like pioneers," Sister Augusta said. At first, the school had a single pot-bellied stove for the winter, and outdoor plumbing only. Despite these privations, she once said. 'We were young and didn't care.' "

She later returned to the Maryland and taught at St. Peter's in Oakland, the Little Flower School in Woodstock, St. Mary's in Rockville, Mount Washington Country School in Baltimore, St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury and Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Baynesville, where she taught until 1990.

"Although she could not name a favorite mission, she admitted to having 'a special fondness' for St. Peter's School in Oakland," said Sister Augusta. "Of her half-century in the classroom, Sister Mary Mark recalled that what she loved most about teaching was the children. She claimed, 'I even missed them on the weekends.' "

She retired in 1990 and moved to the Villa and became a pastoral care volunteer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium.

"To the end, she maintained a lively interest in world and church affairs, and enjoyed conversing with her visitors," said Sister Augusta.

A Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Villa, 6808 Bellona Avenue.

Sister Mary Mark donated her body to science.

Survivors include a sister, Ethel Stang, of Randallstown; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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