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Lynne Dowell

Lynne Dowell
Lynne Dowell, of Mays Chapel, was a Towson University director of academic advising and poet. (Baltimore Sun)

Lynne Dowell, a retired Towson University director of academic advising who was also a poet, died of cancer Saturday at her Mays Chapel home. She was 76.

Born Lynne Elizabeth Toombs in Washington, D.C., she was the daughter of Alfred Gerald Toombs, the editor of the Enterprise in Lexington Park and a fiction writer, and Marna Wilson Lawrence. Her parents divorced when she was a child. After living in Washington and Florida, she and her siblings went to live in the Toombs family summer house in Colton's Point, St. Mary's County.

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The family lived on a small Potomac River island connected to the mainland by a causeway.

Her father turned his experience of raising three children as a single parent into a popular book, "Raising a Riot." It became a 1955 British film starring Kenneth More.

Ms. Dowell, who was a 1956 graduate of Margaret Brent High School in Helen in Southern Maryland, attended Hood College for a year. She and her sister then moved to London with her father. She subsequently lived in Switzerland, where she attended the University of Geneva and became an au pair for a Swiss family.

While sailing on Lake Geneva, she met her future husband, Ronald Dowell, a certified public accountant born in Scotland. They married in 1959.

They lived for a few years in Nottingham and later France. At one point she worked as a veterinary assistant. They spent their vacations with her husband's family throughout Britain.

Her son, Michael Dowell of Arlington, Va., said his mother was an animal lover.

"She had pet geese and goats as a child, and throughout her life kept cats, dogs and guinea pigs, and, occasionally, convalescing turtles and chipmunks," he said.

She moved to Baltimore in 1967 and lived in Towson's Colony apartments. She later had a home on Trafalgar Road.

"The family spent most summers at her childhood home in St Mary's County, which remained much as it was in her childhood," her son said. "It had animals, boats, a sprawling orchard and vegetable garden and a well-stocked family library. There were frequent visits from friends and family."

"She was a caring person and put a lot of herself into making sure her family and friends were taken care of," her son said. "She was sensitive to the needs of others. As an academic adviser, she had students who formed close bonds with her. She didn't make a big deal of what she did."

Her son said that after her children were established in elementary school, she resumed her studies and enrolled at Towson University in 1972. She earned an English degree in 1980 with high academic honors. She later received a master's degree in liberal studies.

Ms. Dowell took a part-time position in the college's academic advising department. She went on to make it a permanent job and retired in 2010 as the school's director of academic advising. She also taught English courses.

"She started writing poetry while in college and became part of the vibrant writing community in Baltimore," her son said.

Ms. Dowell published a volume of poetry, "The Vinegar Year" in 1979.

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"Her poems were often about a sense of loss. They were sad without being mawkish," said Jan Wilkotz, a Towson University professor emerita of English and women's studies who lives in Towson. "As an academic adviser, she was magnificent. As a person, she was self-deprecating. She had a beautiful, low, soft voice."

"She never stopped writing. She had a voice that never gets old. So many of her poems are unflinching in the way they look at life and death," said Clarinda Harriss, a retired Towson University professor and Brick House Books Inc. publisher. "Her work has an earthy, unsentimental way of confronting realities of life which include death."

Ms. Dowell spent her summers in Colton's Point. She boated in the Potomac, Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast in a 30-foot cabin cruiser, the Arianna. She retained her interest in animals and rescued dogs and cats.

Services will be held at noon May 16 at Peaceful Alternatives, 2325 York Road in Timonium.

In addition to her son, survivors include her partner, Maggie Faulkner, a retired Towson University associate professor of psychology; another son, Ian Dowell of Bridgeport, Conn.; a daughter, Kirstie Durr of Fallston; a brother, Alfred Toombs of Alexandria; a sister, Leslie Reis, also of Bridgeport, Conn.; and six grandchildren. She had been separated from her husband of 50 years, who died in 2009.

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