Kathryn Dillon Tubman, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who covered fashion and Maryland's historic homes, died of respiratory arrest Thursday at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Timonium resident was 80.
Born Kathryn Dillon Geraghty and known as Kit, she was the daughter of Dr. Francis J. Geraghty, chief of medicine at Bon Secours Hospital and St. Joseph and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the former Frances H. Dillon, a homemaker. She grew up in Guilford and was a 1951 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School. She earned a bachelor's degree at Trinity Washington University.
Shortly after graduation, she joined the staff of The Baltimore Sun and became its television columnist for three years. She wrote about well-known broadcast personalities, such as Edward R. Murrow and musical comedy star Nanette Fabray.
In 1958, Mrs. Tubman became a feature writer and worked closely with Sun photographer A. Aubrey Bodine, who photographed her 1963 wedding.
Mrs. Tubman wrote for the daily paper and the Sunday magazine. In 1959, she interviewed Barbara Ledermann Rodbell, who had grown up in Amsterdam in the 1930s and lived near fabled diary writer Anne Frank, who later died in a concentration camp, and her older sister, Margot, who perished in the same camp.
Mrs. Rodbell survived Nazi persecution with a set of false identification papers.
Mrs. Tubman wrote in 1959, "On another occasion she hid an escaping Dutch boy under the floor of a horse-drawn carriage ... which was stopped by German soldiers who asked for her papers and flashed their lights inside."
Mrs. Tubman often covered her favorite topics, Maryland history and architecture. In 1964, working with Aubrey Bodine, she wrote of 1 W. Mount Vernon Place, then newly restored by car dealership owner Harry L. Gladding.
She also wrote of home tours in Dickeyville, houses on Gibson Island and converted Cockeysville log cabins.
"She was a stickler for style and grammar," said her son, J. Barry Tubman of Weston, Mass. "She liked to see things done properly, accurately and to the point."
Mrs. Tubman later became the paper's fashion and home furnishings editor and wrote extensively on both topics.
"She enjoyed the glamour of the fashion coverage but was really more interested in history and in old homes. She also enjoyed the people she met," said her daughter, Kathryn Tubman Cameron of Glyndon. "Our family spring-break trips were to places like Mount Vernon, Williamsburg or Monticello. She was fascinated by the way people once lived. She would comment on how tiny the beds were and how they read by candlelight at night."
After marrying and raising a family, she became a volunteer at the Maryland Historical Society, where she later joined the staff. She worked as an education coordinator from 1983 to 2002 and designed education programs for visitors. She also trained more than 50 docents and gave tours.
"She was such a good and gentle person," said Judy Van Dyke, who worked with her at the historical society. ""She was precise, detail-oriented and brought a sweetness to her work."
Nancy Martel, a Baltimore resident who also worked with Mrs. Tubman, recalled her ability to train the many volunteers who came to the Maryland Historical Society.
"She was smart and orderly and gracious with the volunteers," she said. "She had a wonderful memory and was accurate. She was also a good publications editor and could edit anything. We were very fortunate to have her at the society."
Mrs. Tubman used her knowledge of Maryland's historic homes as the 1986 chairman of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, where she was also a central committee member. She also edited many of its annual tour guide publications.
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