Jean Barlow McHugh, a retired Kennedy Krieger Institute social worker recalled for her rigorous advocacy of her clients and their families, died of Alzheimer’s disease complications Feb. 15 at Roland Park Place. The Guilford resident was 95.
“Jean was also a beloved member of the Kennedy Krieger family,” said Dr. Michael Catalto, the institute’s senior vice president. “As part of our social work department, she became an integral part of the interdisciplinary team for the behavioral inpatient unit.
“Most importantly, she is remembered for her dedication to the patients and their families. She loved them and they loved her.”
Born in Oswestry in Shropshire, England, she was the daughter of Harry Barlow, a veteran of both world wars and his wife, Elsie Lamphard, a seamstress. She earned a degree in politics, philosophy and economics at St. Anne’s College at the University of Oxford.
“She surprised and delighted her mother, especially, when at age 11, she passed the 11 plus exam with high marks and was granted a scholarship at Oswestry Girls High School. She would be the first person in her family to finish secondary school and go on to university,” said her daughter, Clare McHugh Lasswell. “It was a scramble to find the money for the uniform, and my grandmother, a professional seamstress, made the blazer herself.”
She said her mother and her two sisters grew up in “a pinched, uncertain world” during the Second World War.
“When she finished school in 1944 and was encouraged by her teachers to try for Oxford, Mum won a place at St Anne’s College. Until two days before she lacked the money to go. At the last minute, a kind uncle stepped in and provided funds,” her daughter said.
Mrs. McHugh practiced social work at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford and the Bristol Royal Infirmary in England. She won a Fulbright Fellowship and studied at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
There she met her future husband, Dr. Paul Rodney McHugh, then a young neurologist-in-training. They married in December 1959. After their marriage they lived in Pelham, New York, and in Portland, Oregon, while she raised her family.
“Jean was a real friend, bright and inquisitive,” said Lottchen “Lottie” Shivers. “At first, it was hard for her to make the change from Oregon to Baltimore.”
She and her husband moved to Baltimore in 1975 when he joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and served 26 years as the Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatrist-in-chief and Henry Phipps professor.
In 1980, after sending her family off to their colleges, she resumed her social work practice and joined Kennedy Krieger. She worked with children with severe behavioral and intellectual disabilities and their families.
“Jean helped form this, now world-renowned inpatient program during its critical years of development, and was particularly valued for her gentle skills both as a social worker and team member, setting an enduring model for both roles,” said Dr. Catalto, who is also a Hopkins psychiatry professor.
She retired in 2002.
Judie Golding, a close friend and former Kennedy Krieger colleague, said: “We had just finished graduate school and all of us were young at that time. Jean was 30 years older. She had practiced in England and had much more experience than we did. She became a mentor to us. She shared her life experience and the hospital experience we did not have.”
Ms. Golding said she joined Mrs. McHugh in a book club.
“Jean was highly intelligent and a serious, analytical reader. She favored biographies and was not a reader of bestsellers. At our book club she guided her fellow members to a deeper level.”
A friend, Mary Ellen Thomsen, recalled Mrs. McHugh’s memorable review of James Joyce’s “The Dubliners.”
“Jean had a great mind and her review was the best I ever heard at the Woman’s Club of Roland Park,” Ms. Thomsen said.
Friends said Mrs. McHugh was an effortless entertainer who welcomed scores of guests into her home. She often served fare from her native England, but never called attention to her cucumber sandwiches and trifle.
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“She was a gracious and accomplished hostess who made her guests feel comfortable,” Ms. Golding said. “Jean welcomed lots of people to her home. Many of her guests were very accomplished and she was quite down to earth. She had no affectation whatsoever.”
Her daughter, Clare McHugh Lasswell, described her mother as having a “vigorous — oftentimes bracing — intellect” with a “loyal commitment to husband and three children and their spouses, and her joy at being a grandmother.”
Mrs. McHugh did not drive, and walked throughout Guilford and Charles Village. She was a regular shopper at the old Eddie’s Market on St. Paul Street and visited neighborhood gardens open for annual tours.
She was an enthusiastic home gardener. When visitors stopped by to admire her flowering border, she also enjoyed describing the fox den located out her back door.
She was a volunteer member of the Citizen Review Board for Children, a panel that works to safeguard foster care children. She was also a docent at the Homewood House.
A funeral Mass will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary and University at 5400 Roland Ave.
In addition to her husband of more than 62 years, the Johns Hopkins distinguished service professor of psychiatry, survivors include her daughter, Clare McHugh Lasswell of Washington, D.C.; two sons, Patrick McHugh of Winnetka, Illinois, and Denis McHugh of New York City; and seven grandchildren.