Drusilla Park Jones, who owned an antique children’s book shop and called her business a “perpetual treasure hunt,” died of end-stage Alzheimer’s disease and diabetic complications Oct. 20 at Charter Senior Living. The Lutherville resident was 82.
“Drusilla‘s bookshop was unique in Baltimore. It filled a void. It catered to collectors, to those seeking a favorite long-gone childhood book and to people looking for a very special gift,” said a customer and collector, Linda Lapides.
“I never regretted what I bought there — only what I did not buy,” she said.
“Drusilla always looked as charming as many of the books she sold,” said Mrs. Lapides, a former Enoch Pratt Free Library librarian. “She had a pleasant demeanor and was generous about sharing information. She understood the mindset of her customers.”
Born in rural Long Grove, Illinois, she was the daughter of William Park and his wife, Virginia, who were poets and writers. She was a 1957 graduate of Ela-Vernon High School and was class salutatorian and a drum major.
She earned a degree in German at Goucher College and spent her junior year overseas studying the language.
While a Goucher student, she met her husband, Earl Penuel “Pen” Jones Jr., on a double date. They married in 1962.
She and her husband settled on West Seminary Avenue in Lutherville in the late 1960s and became active in the community’s historic preservation movement.
She volunteered for the book annual sale sponsored by the Friends of the Goucher College Library, and in the 1970s began working with Towson bookseller Shirley Balser, where she learned the bookselling trade.
In a 2000 Sun article, Mrs. Jones said that while buying books for her own three children, she started collecting for herself. She accumulated an overflowing collection and started selling hard-to-find titles to the public in 1977.
“I remember poring over my mother’s childhood books before I could read, and nagging my mother to take me to the library,” she said in the story.
The decision to go into business and remove many books from her home “saved her marriage,” she said, and gave her family extra room.
“She was my neighbor and a decent, sweet lady. She was knowledgeable in her field. She handled good merchandise. She was simple and down to earth,” said a fellow dealer, E. Christian Mattson.
In 1985, she opened Drusilla’s Books in downtown Baltimore along a section of Howard Street known as Antique Row. She began with three rented rooms and later expanded to her own shop.
The Sun story said, “Her two-room store offers a comforting slice of turn-of-the-century elegance with its eclectic mix of furniture, featuring glass display cases, a mahogany rocking chair and an antique workbench on which books are packaged for shipment.”
She covered the floor with Turkish rugs and stocked unusual greeting cards, often with a literary influence.
She sold mainly out-of-print children’s books and stocked series books: “Hardy Boys,” “Cherry Ames” and the “Bobbsey Twins.” She estimated she had 8,000 titles on hand.
“People walk in with that hopeless expression asking for something they used to have, and then they’re so stunned I have it they buy it,” Mrs. Jones said. “Sometimes, they come back again and again.”
She said home-schooling parents asked for texts of earlier, more innocent titles such as the “Dick and Jane” readers.
“It’s a perpetual treasure hunt,” she said. “That’s the fun of it. You can’t know everything that’s out there.”
She liked reuniting customers with their favorite, if long discarded, childhood books.
“This job is part treasure hunt, part detective work,” she says. “I get dozens of calls every week from people who aren’t collectors. They’re just looking for a childhood book. They don’t remember the author, or the title, just that the cover was red.”
She would sigh about her customers’ lack of specificity and say, “The cover is always red.”
She saw the prices rise for the works she carried.
“People are stunned when I tell them the book that they’re after is rare and valuable, and that it may cost them real money,” Mrs. Jones said. “I get a lot of parents. They want to give their children a book that they loved when they were young.”
The Morning Sun
She closed her shop in 2011 and then sold books from her home.
She was a founding member of The Scottish Country Dancing Society. She played the harpsichord and Celtic harp with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. She was a past president of the Baltimore Bibliophiles.
“She really invested herself in the organizations she belonged to. I was always happy when we ended up at the same table,” said Nancy Magnuson, Goucher College librarian emerita.
Her personal collection focused on the medieval chivalric romance, Tristan and Isolde.
After her daughter Gwyneth developed cystic fibrosis, she and her husband worked to give the child the best possible childhood and met with Dr. Annie Bestebreurtje Fitzpatrick. They felt their daughter was a medical miracle, who lived into her 30s, married and won environmental awards.
Survivors include two sons, Jon Giles Jones of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Robin Penuel Jones of Cockeysville, and a sister, Deborah Park Mynatt, of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her daughter, Gwyneth J. Spangler, died in 2008. Her husband of 55 years, an engineer and Lutherville historical preservationist, died in 2017.
A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 15 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church at 811 Cathedral St. in Baltimore, where she was a member.