Betsey R. Spragins, GBMC volunteer

Betsey R. Spragins, a member of the original Women's Hospital Foundation board at Greater Baltimore Medical Center where she volunteered for 40 years, died Monday of heart failure at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville, where she had lived since 1995. The former longtime Lutherville resident was 91.

The daughter of John Lathrop Rochester, who was an insurance executive, and Elizabeth White Rochester, a homemaker, the former Betsey Rochester was born and raised in Dunkirk, N.Y.

She was a direct descendant of Nathaniel Rochester, a Revolutionary War soldier and land speculator, who founded the settlement that became Rochester, N.Y.

After graduating in 1940 from Buffalo Seminary, a private girls school, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1944 from Smith College. She worked for two years at Boston Children's Hospital.

While working at Buffalo Children's Hospital from 1946 to 1949 in its EEG laboratory, she met her future husband, Dr. Melchijah Spragins, whom she married in 1949. The couple collaborated on a three-year study of measles that was published in 1950 in Pediatrics magazine.

In 1949, they moved to Towson, where Dr. Spragins established a pediatrics practice and Mrs. Spragins handled all of the after-hour calls from "worried and distressed parents of sick children, offering advice and consolation until her husband became available," said a son, William S. Spragins of Denver.

Dr. Spragins died in 2007.

Early on, Mrs. Spragins began volunteering at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and was a member of the Women's Hospital Foundation board until 1997. She was also a member of the Hoover Low-Vision Advisory Board.

In addition to giving tours of the hospital and its grounds before it opened in 1965, Mrs. Spragins later served as president and vice president of the Volunteer Auxiliary, working over the next 40 years in the recovery room, the emergency room, radiation oncology and the front desk. She amassed more than 10,000 volunteer hours.

Mrs. Spragins was one of the first two women to serve on the board of trustees of the Gilman School, a position she held for 15 years. During her tenure, she founded the Parents Association, which is now involved with many activities at the school.

She also volunteered at Union Memorial Hospital, and was a member of the women's boards of Kernan Hospital and Pickersgill retirement home. She also had been president of the Friends of the Towson Library.

Mrs. Spragins enjoyed entertaining family and friends at her Long Quarter Court home in Lutherville.

She also liked vacationing in Ogunquit and Rockport, Maine, as well as taking trips to Cape Cod and southern New Jersey beaches. She was a fan of the old Baltimore Colts, Ravens and Orioles.

Mrs. Spragins was an active communicant of Trinity Episcopal Church, where she had been a warden and member of the vestry and the Women's Guild.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at her church, 120 Allegheny Ave., Towson.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Spragins is survived by two other sons, Melchijah Spragins of Berkeley, Calif., and James Stith-Bolling Spragins of Lutherville; and two grandchildren. Another son, John Rochester Spragins, died in 1990.

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