Anne Irby, a problem solver who worked with veterans while on the staff of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, died Dec 18 of complications from diabetes and congestive heart failure at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. She was 56 and lived in Parkville.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, she was the daughter of Basil T. Irby, a sales representative for the Baltimore Stationery Co., and Jean Craig, a homemaker. She attended St, Thomas More School and was a 1979 graduate of the old Seton High School in Charles Village.
She received a diploma from what was then Villa Julie College and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore. She also attended Goucher College.
As a young woman, she joined the Baltimore Jewish Council and then became a lobbyist for Associated Catholic Charities of Baltimore.
In 1990 she joined the office of Mr. Cardin, who was then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as a caseworker. She remained with him when he went on to the Senate. Colleagues said she was an advocate for Marylanders facing housing challenges, and also assisted military veterans, helping them and their families navigate the federal bureaucracy.
“I would hear her on the phone with people who were irate and angry,” said Tim Zink, the senator’s press secretary. “She had a way of defusing the situation and getting to the core of the issue. The matters she dealt with were not trivial. She helped people with lasting injuries and serious handicaps.”
He said she worked patiently. “She worked behind the scenes, in the trenches. Her life was her job,” said Mr. Zink.
“Anne was the kindest of souls who had a heart of pure gold,” said Senator Cardin. “She was incredibly loyal and equally tenacious, never refusing anyone her time or assistance, and always refusing to take no for an answer when a constituent’s well-being hung in the balance. Anne was one of the most patient and caring people you could ever meet, and one of the best friends you could ever have.”
Dina Johns, a colleague and friend for more than 20 years, said, “Whenever anyone’s family member faced a challenge, you turned around, and there was Anne doing whatever she could to help.”
“Anne had a really young soul, and it allowed us to build us a strong connection even though I was roughly half her age,” said another colleague, Lienna Feleke-Eshete. “Anne was a great listener and had tremendous empathy that allowed her to relate with other people.”
“I never felt I could thank Anne Irby enough after my first conversation with her,” said Brian Koman, a Carroll County veteran and cancer survivor. “She helped me circumvent the Veterans Affairs bureaucratic maze, getting me much-needed physicals, vaccines and prompt service that I was not able to secure. Every time I needed an appointment, instead of waiting months, she was able to get me seen in days. “
Ms. Irby traveled to Frederick to present a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor to 23-year veteran S.J. “Rocky” Motley, who had helped liberate concentration camps during World War II as a member of the Army and later served in the Air Force in Korea and Vietnam.
Ms. Irby also helped in selecting nominees for the service academies for Senator Cardin.
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Her friends in Senator Cardin’s office recalled that she took great joy in a strong cup of fine coffee, sought out good books and independent bookstores, and was a fan of the artwork of Peter Max. She spent time at Rehoboth Beach, Del., and became a fan of the Washington Redskins after the Colts left Baltimore.
“The only person she ever truly disliked was John Elway after he said he would refuse to play for the Colts,” said Mr. Zink.
"Anne was the best sister and friend anyone would be lucky enough to have,” said her sister, Donna Jean Rodgers of Parkville. “She was a giving person and was always trying to help someone."
Ms. Irby read widely and collected books signed by the authors. She had a library of political works and concentrated on John F. Kennedy biographies and studies. She also enjoyed reading murder mysteries.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 12 at the Church of St. Thomas More, 6806 McClean Blvd.