Mary J. Gillern, senior center director, artist and writer, dies

Mary J. Gillern, former director of the Victory Villa Senior Center who was also an artist and writer, died Nov. 21 from heart failure at Integrace Bayleigh Chase assisted living in Easton.

The longtime Dundalk area resident was 93.

The former Mary Jane Burkhouse was the daughter of Martin Burkhouse, owner of the Jolly Post Tavern in Sparrows Point, and Mamie Haggerty Burkhouse.

She was born and raised in Sparrows Point, where she graduated in 1941 from Sparrows Point High School.

She attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and Union Memorial Hospital School of Nursing.

In 1949, she married Edward M. “Rip” Gillern, who took over ownership of the Jolly Post Tavern. He died in 1991.

The couple and their six children lived from 1963 to 1977 at Todd’s Inheritance, the historic house overlooking Shallow Creek that played a strategic role during the Battle of North Point in 1814. Today, the home is part of the Todd’s Inheritance Historic Site in North Point.

During the 1960s and and 1970s, Mrs. Gillern wrote “On a Clear Day,” a weekly column for The Dundalk Eagle.

“It was a slice-of-life column, a bit like Erma Bombeck, and revolved around life at Todd’s Inheritance,” said a daughter, Susie Pompa of Hamilton.

“When we were kids we used to play hide and seek in the old graveyard that dates back to the 1600s,” Ms. Pompa said.

Mrs. Gillern formerly worked for Catholic Charities. From 1966 until her retirement in 1992, she was employed by the Baltimore County Department of Aging and served as director of the Victory Villa Senior Center in Middle River.

She moved to Easton in 2013. She enjoyed painting, wrote fiction and also maintained journals, her daughter said.

“She painted landscapes, seascapes and still-lifes in both watercolors and oils,” Ms. Pompa said.

Mrs. Gillern also liked to knit, garden and watch “Seinfeld” reruns.

She was a communicant of St. Rita Roman Catholic Church in Dundalk, where a celebration of life Mass was offered Saturday.

In addition to Ms. Pompa, she is survived by a son, Edward Michael Gillern of Fort Myers, Fla.; three other daughters, Julie Gillern of College Park, Jane Cross of Easton and Mary Bilik of Delmar, N.Y.; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Stacey Cumberland, died in 1993.

-- Frederick N. Rasmussen

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