Lin Romano, a counselor and neighborhood housing advocate who worked with the poor, died of cancer Feb. 7 at Gilchrist Center Towson. The Chinquapin Park-area resident was 63.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Little Italy, she was the daughter of Anthony “Tony” Romano and his wife, Mary. She attended Mercy High School and was a 1973 graduate of Northern High School. She became a licensed clinical professional counselor after she graduated from what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University and Loyola University Maryland.
In an autobiographical sketch, she said that at a young age she felt called to work with people living in poverty and to challenge what she felt were “systems that cause them to be poor.” During the Vietnam War and for 10 years after she was a live-in volunteer at the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C., where she worked with Mitch Snyder.
She helped run a free health clinic, meal kitchens and shelters, including a medical hospitality house for homeless people.
“She was was an amazing woman whose life was dedicated to the pursuit of peace and justice, personally, locally, nationally and internationally," said Missy Gugerty, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Ms. Romano was later a worker at Epiphany Plowshares in Philadelphia.
She moved to Jonah House on the grounds of a West Baltimore cemetery. In her writing, she described it as “a faith-based resistance community that also serves the neighborhood with a food pantry, gardens, and outreach.”
Ms. Romano then joined Baltimore’s Catholic Charities and among other duties served as a caseworker at Christopher Place, then on Greenmount Avenue.
She moved to the Govans Ecumenical Development Corp. on York Road. She served 22 years with the organization and provided housing and supportive services for people with special needs.
Among other assignments, she helped with the planning and construction of Stadium Place on the grounds of the old Memorial Stadium in the Waverly-Ednor Gardens area.
“Lin was the backbone of GEDCO’s programs throughout her 22 years,” co-worker Julia Pierson said. "She was hired in 1994 to operate Harford House, housing in the Oliver neighborhood for men who had experienced homelessness. She built a caring community where each man was given the healing space and time to examine his life and develop positive goals.
“Making the holidays special for GEDCO’s residents was very important to Lin. She personally set the stage for legendary Thanksgiving dinners at Harford House, Christmas lunch at Epiphany House, and enlisted dozens of volunteers to donate Christmas gifts on residents’ wish lists — making sure each was wrapped with care and love.”
Ms. Romano became GEDCO’s program director and later its chief operating officer.
“She cared about the most vulnerable, was tenacious and a perfectionist who didn’t give up easily when the work got hard,” Ms. Pierson said.
Her last job was career coordinator at Caroline Center in East Baltimore. She trained women for jobs in health care.
“She was a passionate advocate, providing job readiness skills to women of Baltimore City,” said Holly Knipp, a co-worker at Caroline Center. “She assisted them in securing positions with good potential for advancement. She loved her job; she often said that she learned at least as much from the women as they did from her. Lin was energetic and a force of nature.
"The women emerged from her guidance with confidence in themselves and in their abilities. Lin believed in the women even when sometimes their own belief faltered. On one occasion, Lin was concerned that an alumna stopped contact with her because she was discouraged. Lin went to her house, provided a pep talk, and offered the necessary encouragement to motivate her to try again. That alumna soon gained successful employment."
Ms. Romano served on nonprofit boards, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Waverly Main Street, the local Emergency Food and Shelter Program of FEMA, as well as a Chinquapin Park-area neighborhood group.
She was a member of the St. Peter’s Cemetery Foundation Board. In this role, she helped provide oversight for a historic Irish cemetery on Moreland Avenue maintained by Jonah House in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Ms. Romano wrote a request that her cemetery marker say, “Serve others, seek peace, resist injustice.”
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. April 25 at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues, where she was a member.
A memorial has been established in her name at Notre Dame of Maryland University.
Survivors include her husband of more than 15 years, David Hoovler, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame of Maryland University; a daughter, Emily Avoujangeli of Los Angeles; and two brothers, Anthony “Tony” Romano and Richard “Rick” Romano, who both live in Baltimore.