Charlton Merrick McLean, an active church volunteer and gardener, dies

Charlton Merrick McLean, “was always ready to stand up to toast her hosts or to make up a toast on the spur of the moment," her son said.

Charlton Merrick “Cha” McLean, a devoted gardener and Cathedral of Mary Our Queen parish member and volunteer, died of COVID-19 complications May 30 at her Brightwood Retirement Community home in Lutherville. She was 91.

Born Mary Charlton Merrick in Baltimore and raised in Woodbrook, she was the daughter of William Spedden Merrick and Helen McEvoy.


She attended Notre Dame Preparatory School and Bryn Mawr School and was a 1948 graduate of the Eden Hall Academy of the Sacred Heart in Torresdale, Pennsylvania.

She met her future husband, Stewart Henderson McLean, on a drive to Charlottesville, Virginia. They married in 1952 at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mount Washington.


Mrs. McLean was a member of the parish of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and volunteered to bake casseroles for Our Daily Bread. She was also a Eucharistic minister and brought communion to Roman Catholic patients at Sinai Hospital.

She was also head of the parish’s hospitality committee and planned events at the cathedral rectory and arranged flowers for these gatherings. She, her husband and other committee members served the rectory’s guests at these events and cleaned up, too.

“I can’t talk about Mom without including Dad because they complemented each other so well,” said her son Stewart Henderson McLean Jr. “They were members of the Elkridge Club and loved their golf. They both won quite a few tournaments on their own, together and with others.”

Mr. McLean also said, “When she had an idea, Dad always volunteered to do the parts that she didn’t feel up to. When there was a call for volunteers to teach Sunday school, she asked Dad to do it with her. She thought that she couldn’t handle it on her own, but with Dad, she knew they could do it all. Known to their students as Cha and Stew, they taught a fourth grade Sunday school class here for 15 years.”

He said she had an eye for color and design, and she created welcoming spaces from her collection of formal antiques, modern furniture and decorative arts.

“Mom created a home to which we all loved to return,” said her son. “She never thought of herself as an artist, but she was an exceptional one. She transformed the run-down wreck of a house that they bought in 1954 at 49 Gittings Ave. by implementing her ever-changing vision for the house and gardens. It was a place that people loved to visit and gather.”

“She loved a party,” he added. “She was a good cook and loved to entertain her large group of friends. She and Dad also loved to go to friends homes, too. Mom loved to dance. Dad only liked to dance with her. He was delighted when she would seek out the men who were really good dancers because he loved to watch her enjoy herself. He knew that she only had eyes for him.”

Mrs. McLean made friends as a member of the Guilford Garden Club. She served as the club’s president and also became zone chair for the Garden Club of America. She competed with creative flower arrangements in shows and was a judge.


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“She always did her best, yet she was not so competitive that she needed the blue ribbon,” said her son.

He said his mother’s experience and abilities in arranging flowers and gardening grew every year.

“Family, friends, neighbors and even strangers stopped to ask if they could tour her gardens, and she took great pleasure in showing them off. Her home at 49 Gittings Ave. was a work of art that was always in progress. She worked in the garden pretty much all day every day throughout the spring, summer and fall.”

Survivors include her two sons, William S. McLean of Roland Park and Stewart Henderson McLean Jr. of Mount Vernon; two daughters, Charlton McLean Chafey of Woodbrook Village and Anne McLean Matthews of Stoneleigh; a brother, Samuel Seymour Merrick of Lutherville; a sister, Agnes Merrick of Cockeysville; eight grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. Her husband, Stewart Henderson McLean, a custom home builder, died in 2014. A son, Samuel Henderson McLean, died as an infant in 1954.

A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. June 21 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.