Doris T. Slack, the president of her family’s funeral home who was named to Howard County’s Women’s Hall of Fame, died of vascular disease April 29 at Bryant Woods Manor assisted living in Columbia. The longtime Ellicott City resident was 92.
Born in a Howard County area known locally as Alpha, she was the daughter of Celius Thompson and his wife, Virginia Cross, who were farmers.
“My mother grew up on farms in Howard County and learned the skills that would serve her well in her early life,” said her son, John Dallas Slack of Ellicott City.
Her son said she became a 4-H leader when she was 16 and remained active in the club for an additional 28 years. She was named a Maryland All-Star in recognition of her “outstanding work within the organization.”
Mrs. Slack went on to oversee the household department of the Howard County Fair.
“She was assisted by a tremendous group of volunteers and my mother thoroughly reorganized the department during her 17 years,” her son said. “She increased its efficiency and made it more exhibitor-friendly.”
“She was a very strong-willed person,” said her daughter, Debra Ann Slack Katz of Sykesville. “She believed that you worked until you got something done. She was organized. She was meticulous in the way she dressed. She never had a hair out of place.
“She also believed in service to the community,” her daughter said.
Mrs. Slack was a 1945 Lisbon High School graduate and was awarded a one-year scholarship to what is now Towson University.
“She delayed going to Towson for a year to care for her ailing mother,” her son said. “Due to financial constraints, she was never able to continue her college education.”
In 1946, while on her year’s hiatus from education, Mrs. Slack began her employment career as an “Edi-phone” operator for Montgomery Ward department store on Monroe Street in Baltimore.
After her time at Towson, she was a bookkeeper and teller at Patapsco National Bank on Main Street in Ellicott City. She would remain at the bank for almost three years while working nights as the lead car hop at the Pig & Whistle restaurant at Route 40 and Rogers Avenue in Ellicott City.
During that time, she married John R. Slack, a Howard County native whose farm was located near her parents’.
In 1953 she worked at the Doughnut Corporation of America housed in an old mill on Frederick Road near the Patapsco River.
She soon left the post to raise her family and then returned to the Patapsco National Bank where she remained until 1970.
In 1966 she and her husband purchased the Higinbothom Funeral Home on Old Columbia Pike, an Ellicott City business since 1929.
When her husband died in 1983, she became president of the Slack Funeral Home P.A. in Ellicott City. She held the position at her death.
She had been a member of the Howard County General Hospital Community Relations Committee, the Greenbriar Garden Club and the Linwood Center’s Charity Golf Committee, and was a longtime member of and Sunday school teacher at Saint James United Methodist Church.
She was a past board member of the Maryland chapter of the American Heart Association.
She was also a member of the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association.
“My mother established a relationship between Howard County General Hospital, Columbia Memorial Park and her funeral home to provide services for prenatal and neonatal deaths at minimal or no cost to families experiencing such a loss,” her son said. “As a mother, she recognized the tremendous emotional impact losing a child would have. She tried to make a difference for families in this situation.
“My mother once had a minimal involvement in the daily business of the [funeral] home that after becoming its president, that all changed. She learned on the fly and managed the business side. She was an astute fiscal manager. She would sit at her kitchen table late into the night working the books. She grew up with very little and she was very aware of the penny. She thought, ‘Watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.’ She came from a tenant-farming background and her dresses were once made from feed sacks.”
Mrs. Slack was named a member of the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
In addition to her daughter and son, survivors include seven grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Saint James United Methodist Church at 12470 Old Frederick Road in Marriottsville.