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Irene E. Newhouse, first director of the Anne Arundel County Office on Aging and community activist, dies

Irene Newhouse was active in a number of community organizations.
Irene Newhouse was active in a number of community organizations.(Handout / HANDOUT)

Irene E. Newhouse, a community activist, who as the first director of the Anne Arundel County Office on Aging led the way in making the Pascal Senior Center a reality and left her mark on Anne Arundel County educational and cultural organizations, died Tuesday in her sleep at the Charlestown Retirement Community. She was 94.

“I could say a lot of good things about Irene,” said Joan Maynard, a Linthicum Heights resident and a longtime friend. “She was quite a force in our Linthicum Heights community and was an important figure in helping get a library built many years ago. She was active in Anne Arundel County on behalf of our community.”

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Mrs. Maynard, who retired from the Maryland Department of Education, where she was director of program development, planning and assistance, praised Mrs. Newhouse’s spirit.

“She was from New England and had that New England spirit of initiating things. When Irene saw a need, she pursued it, and didn’t rely on government to solve everything. If she saw something that needed to be done, then she was the leader in getting it done.”

The former Irene Elizabeth Damon, daughter of Conrad Wesselhodt Damon, a nurse, and his wife, Irene Fling Bramble, also a nurse, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, where she graduated from high school.

She was working in Boston near the end of World War II when she met and fell in love with Paul Dean Newhouse. The couple married in 1945, and after her husband pursed his career as an electrical engineer in Illinois and Michigan, they moved in 1954 to a home in Linthicum when he took a position at Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s Air Arm group, headquartered near the old Friendship Airport, now BWI.

Mr. Newhouse later joined the staff of ECAC-IITRL in Annapolis, where he analyzed the electgromagnetic compatibility of radar signals for the Air Force for 25 years until retiring in 1988.

When the the state passed legislation in 1974 that each county would have an office on aging, Mrs. Newhouse was working in community relations under then-Anne Arundel County Executive Joseph W. Alton, who appointed her to be the first executive director of the county’s department on aging.

When Mr. Alton was succeeded by Robert A. Pascal in 1974, plans were inaugurated to build a senior center in Glen Burnie.

“The citizens of Glen Burnie were adamant that it be in the center of Glen Burnie and of course we knew that the Glen Burnie Center was going to be a reality someday so it could not be where they were insisting,” Mrs. Newhouse explained in a 2010 interview with Anne Arundel County Generations that celebrated the 30th anniversary of the senior center, which opened its doors in 1979.

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“I had gone to Pennsylvania to look at a senior center that was in a park setting, and the minute I saw that I knew ours had to be in a park setting,” she said.

After Mr. Pascal viewed the proposed site on Dorsey Road near Saw Mill Creek Park in Glen Burnie, he immediately endorsed Mrs. Newhouse’s selection and chose Frank Gant, a Baltimore architect, to design the facility, which became known as the Pascal Senior Center.

Mrs. Newhouse resigned from county’s office of aging in 1976 to help with her grandchildren and continue her volunteer work.

“I have been told that I intuitively see people’s needs and how to meet them,” she said in the 2010 interview.

“She was just a genuinely wonderful citizen and connected on all levels of society, from those in need and the poor to those who were better off,” Mrs. Maynard said.

When Mrs. Newhouse’s sons were in school, she conducted the purchasing and processing of books for the Linthicum Elementary School library, which earned her an appointment to the Anne Arundel County Library Board, where she continued working until she went to work for the county in community relations.

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As chairperson she oversaw the building of the Linthicum Library and was on site every day to check its construction. She was the community improvement chairman and then president of the Linthicum Women’s Clubs and vice president of the Traveler’s Aid Society of Maryland, where she was responsible for the establishment of the first traveler’s aid desk at the old Friendship Airport.

Mrs. Newhouse held additional positions with Performing Arts of Anne Arundel County and served as a trustee from 1979 to 1991 of Anne Arundel Community College, where she was chairman and vice chairman. She was also vice chairman of the board and chairman of volunteer personnel for the Red Cross of Anne Arundel County.

She was president of the Anne Arundel County Historical Society and played an instrumental role in the acquisition of the historic Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum Heights, which dates to the late 1820s.

She also took part in the 1989 effort that brought the 17th-century portrait of Anne Arundell, Lady Baltimore, wife of Cecil Calvert, who died in 1689, and for whom Anne Arundel County is named, from England’s Wardour Castle for display at the Benson-Hammond House.

Mrs. Newhouse was a longtime member of PEO Women’s Sorority and a member of Linthicum United Methodist Church, where she taught Sunday school.

“She was outgoing and friendly, which was part of her character, and could relate to people of all age groups,” Mrs. Maynard said. “And she willingly shared her wisdom which she had accrued though the years.”

She and her husband moved to Charlestown in 2005. He died two year later.

“She lived a long life and an admirable one,” Mrs. Maynard observed. “She was quite a woman.”

Mrs. Newhouse left her body to the Maryland Anatomy Board, and it was her request that no memorial service be held.

She is survived by her two sons, Stephen A. Newhouse of Columbia and David J. Newhouse of Vienna, Virginia; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and two great-great grandchildren.

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