Janet C. Chalk, homemaker and political activist, dies

Janet C. Chalk, a homemaker, political activist and theater buff, died Sept. 4 from heart failure at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Lutherville resident was 89.

The former Janet Barbara Crow was born at home on Rosedale Street in West Baltimore. She was the daughter of Thomas E. Crow, a Broadway stage technician, and Anna L. Crow, a Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. operator and supervisor.

She was a direct descendant of Gen. Samuel Smith who commanded the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

Raised in West Baltimore, she was a 1948 graduate of Western High School and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland College Park in 1952.

She was an aspiring actress, and when she was 16 she went to New York where she had been “offered roles in the original touring company of ‘Oklahoma.’ She was the fourth female lead,” said her daughter, Melissa C. Line, a Lutherville resident and political consultant who had been director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.

However, “her parents weren’t about to let her go on a national tour,” said her daughter.

Her theatrical career came to an end at age 23 when she was in an automobile accident during an ice storm. She was thrown onto the hood of an oncoming truck.

“She survived, but they said she wouldn’t walk again,” Ms. Line said. “She walked again — and wore high heels until the end of her life. Then they said she couldn’t have baby, and she had me.”

She worked as a social worker for the city health department, and in 1958 she married Charles Chalk, a College Park classmate. They settled in Parkton, and later lived in Towson, Ruxton and Lutherville.

Her husband, a Baltimore County public schools special education teacher, died in 2007.

During the 1970s, Ms. Chalk was active in Baltimore County in both Republican and Democratic party politics. In 1974, she ran unsuccessfully as the 11th District Republican candidate for the state Senate.

Ms. Chalk had also been a longtime critic of the county school board. She advocated for an elected board, and led a drive that established a separate board of trustees for the county community colleges.

“She was a great social liberal throughout her life and was interested in civil rights,” her daughter said.

Ms. Chalk never lost her love of the theater; she regularly traveled to Broadway while also taking in productions at the old Morris A. Mechanic Theatre and Center Stage. She was a fan of musicals and movies.

“She was an intellectually capable person who enjoyed reading about politics, non-fiction and current events. She read incessantly,” Ms. Line said.

A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at Hunt’s Memorial United Methodist Church, West Joppa and Old Court roads, Riderwood.

Her daughter is her only survivor.

—Frederick N. Rasmussen

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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