Anne Deford was an active athlete throughout her life.
Anne Deford was an active athlete throughout her life. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Anne P. Deford, chairwoman of Boordy Vineyards, the largest and oldest Maryland vineyard, who was a philanthropist and patron of the arts, died Sept. 12 at her Long Green Valley farm in Hydes. She was 102.

“Anne was very active in life and a very happy person. I don’t remember her ever being down in the dumps. She was just terrific,” said Barbara Sealy “Bunny” Hathaway of Owings Mills, a friend of more than 70 years. “I first met her after I married Phil in 1945, and came to Baltimore. I will miss her terribly because she was such a close friend.”

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Harriet S. Iglehart of Monkton was a friend of Mrs. Deford’s for more than 50 years.

“I always thought Anne was one of the most charming and attractive individuals I’ve ever known” Mrs. Iglehart said. “She was always so interested in what was going on.”

The former Anne Preston McAdoo, the daughter of Francis Huger McAdoo, a lawyer who was general counsel for Allied Chemical Co., and Ethel McCormack McAdoo, a homemaker, was born in New York City.

She was also the granddaughter of William Gibbs McAdoo, secretary of the treasury in President Woodrow Wilson’s first Cabinet, and during World War I the director general of railroads for the U.S. Railroad Administration from 1917 to 1918. Her grandmother, Anne Preston McCormack Emerson, was the second wife of Capt. Isaac Edward Emerson, inventor of Bromo-Seltzer and founder of the Emerson Drug Co.

Mrs. Deford spent time growing up in New York City and at Brooklandwood, Captain Emerson’s estate on Falls Road in Brooklandville, which is now St. Paul’s School for Boys. She was a 1935 graduate of the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, and made her debut at the Bachelors Cotillon that year.

She spent a year attending college in France before entering Cornell University at its Manhattan campus, where she studied for a year.

“She is known as an equestrienne in Baltimore and on May 15, 1937, acted as ‘Queen of the Preakness’ in the city armory here,” reported The New York Times in 1939.

In 1939, she married Robert Bell Deford Jr., whose family owned the Long Green Valley farm where Boordy Vineyards is now located. He died in 1987.

After Mr. Deford served in Europe as a lieutenant in an Army combat engineers unit during World War II, he and his wife, who had worked on the farm during the war years when she was not in New York working with the Red Cross, permanently settled there, raising tomatoes, feed crops and Charolais cattle.

Despite her patrician background, Mrs. Deford vigorously participated in the operation of the farm, said a son, Robert B. Deford III of Monkton, who is president of Boordy Vineyards.

“Anne was a very modest person. Whatever Bobby wanted to do on the farm, she went along with it. I remember one time when they raised turkeys, and when Christmas came around, Anne delivered them," Mrs. Hathaway recalled.

“Another time, they grew string beans, I have no idea why, and Anne had to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning and go downtown and gather up the pickers, take them to the farm, and at the end of the day, deliver them back downtown,” she said.

Philip M. Wagner, a former editorial writer for The Evening Sun who later became editor of The Sun, established Boordy Vineyards, Maryland’s first bonded winery, in 1945 at his 4.7-acre home in Riderwood, where he lived until his death in 1996.

Mr. Wagner, who came to be recognized as the patriarch of Eastern winemaking and was the first to plant French hybrids in the United States with his wife and collaborator, Jocelyn, began making wine during Prohibition with his neighbor Hamilton Owens, later editor-in-chief of The Sunpapers.

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Years later, Mr. Wagner asked Mr. Deford if he could plant grapevines at his Hydes farm, and he replied yes, to which Mrs. Deford thought that winemaking “was a wonderful idea and the cattle business wasn’t going well,” reported The Sun in 2001.

Mr. Deford, who had studied oenology in California during the 1970s, returned to the Hydes farm, and convinced his parents to get rid of the cattle business and focus on growing grapes for Boordy Vineyards, which he purchased in 1980 from the Wagners.

Mrs. Deford, who had assisted with the growth and development of the winery through the years, was still serving as chairwoman of the board of Boordy Vineyards at her death.

“I remember her working in the vineyard alongside my father with my 2-year-old son, Phineas, on her hip,” Mr. Deford recalled. “My brother recalls that when we were combining grain or baling hay in the cruel summer heat, the most welcome sight was that of our mother appearing with a pitcher of iced tea.”

A conservationist who was taken with the beauty of Long Green Valley, Mrs. Deford donated her 252-acre farm’s development easements to the Maryland Environmental Trust in 2001, in return for tax breaks, a decision which she thought was a “logical one,” she told The Sun, and which she hoped would inspire other landowners in the Long Green Valley national district in Baltimore County to do the same.

Mrs. Deford’s farm was a critical component of the 6,000-acre historic district composed of fields and gently rolling hills that extends from Loch Raven Reservoir to the Harford County line.

“I’ve been thinking, it’s such a beautiful valley, it should be preserved,” she told the newspaper.

“She believed in keeping the land open and productive,” her son said.

Mrs. Deford had been active for years and had been a member of the board of Monkton’s Ladew Topiary Gardens.

Frances R. Rome, who founded the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Women’s Committee in the early 1950s, was joined by Mrs. Deford, Selma Rosen and Edith Hoppe of the museum’s sales and rental gallery.

“They began working in the museum’s sales and rental gallery in the 1950s and they became such great friends,” said Nancy R.H. Rome, Mrs. Rome’s daughter. “She has always been a good friend to me, and a good friend to my mother forever.”

“The BMA was a big part of her life,” her son said.

Mrs. Deford’s philanthropic interests included the Ethel M. Looram Foundation, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Opera Co. and Center Stage.

Ms. Rome, an Upperco resident, described Mrs. Deford as not being a “fussy person who always dove into things. Anne was always straightforward and direct. She was just wonderful.”

When Ms. Rome was living in England, Mrs. Deford, asked her to drive her around Scotland, "because she knew I knew how to drive on the left side of the road. We had the best time, actually — it was a blast,” she said.

Mrs. Deford also had a comic side, Mrs. Iglehart said.

“I recall years ago when she was putting on a Shakespearean play at the vineyard and she gave the audience tomatoes to throw at the actors if they wanted to,” Mrs. Iglehart said with a laugh.

Mrs. Deford remained a confirmed athlete all of her life. She began horseback riding when she was 12, and grew up sailing during summers off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, and enjoyed sailing with her brother, Francis McAdoo, in Maine waters.

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She loved to ski and continued alpine skiing into her 80s, and cross country until she was well in her 90s. “My brother Jonathan recalls that when he lived in Waitsfield, Vermont, in the 1970s, my mother would drive 10 hours north, and without missing a beat, don her skis and race him down the mountain.”

“She was a beautiful skier and a talented athlete,” Ms. Rome said.

She was also an accomplished fly-fisherwoman.

“In recent years, they drove her around the farm on a golf cart while Anne urged them, ‘to go faster, faster, faster,’” Mrs. Iglehart said.

Mrs. Deford was a socially active person. She was a member of the Mount Vernon Club, Elkridge Club, Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, Wroten Island Hunting Club, West Chop Club in Tisbury, Massachusetts, and the Cosmopolitan Club in New York City.

She was a communicant of St. James Episcopal Church, 3100 Monkton Road, Monkton, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday.

In addition to her son, she is survived by two other sons, William McAdoo Deford of Timonium and Jonathan Hanson Deford of Hydes; a daughter, Sally Deford Buck of Hydes; 11 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

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