Margaret “Maggie” Lord, a former longtime popular Baltimore Sun copy editor who brought a British sense of creative refinement, competency and humor to her work, died Tuesday at Sinai Hospital of complications from a fall she suffered at her Broadmead retirement community home. The Hunt Valley resident was 88.
“Margaret Lord worked for me about 10 years on The Sun’s copy desk,” wrote Andy Faith, who was chief of the copy desk from 1986 to 1995, when he retired, in an email. “She was a consummate copy editor. She had good judgment, good sense, and an excellent command of the language. She was also a kind and gentle human being.”
John E. McIntyre, who retired in 2021 as copy desk chief, worked closely with Ms. Lord.
“As an editor, she was perceptive and invariably reliable, trusted by every reporter and editor in the newsroom, but the remarks in her dry British humor she shared with her colleagues on the desk were occasionally devastating,” Mr. McIntyre wrote in an email.
Ann Feild, a former longtime Sun artist, who lived in the same Windsor Hills apartment building, was a colleague and close friend.
“Margaret had such a wry sense of humor and would often say, ‘Worse things have happened at sea,’” Ms. Feild said.
Margaret Lord, born in Darlington, County Durham, England, was the middle child of Joseph Frederick Lord, a gas engineer, and Vera Lord, a homemaker.
She attended a small private school in Darlington, “spending holidays at her grandparents’ farm on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, a location she always returned to when visiting England,” according to a biographical profile submitted by her family.
“When she was 9 years old, her father became manager of the gas works in Kettering, Northamptonshire, and the family moved south,” according to the profile. “Although an Anglican, Margaret attended the local Roman Catholic convent school where she was put in a class two years above her chronological age. When she was 15, her much beloved father died.”
After passing her exams early, Ms. Lord studied for a year in France, where she became fluent in French. She then enrolled at Manchester University, where she earned a degree in English.
After graduating from university, she began her newspaper career as a reporter for the local paper in York, England.
Ms. Lord had been a strong supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and for a time worked in the organization’s offices, and later on several newspapers in northwest England.
It was around 1961, when Ms. Lord became friends with an American, and then while on a six-month visa to Philadelphia was hired by what was then known as the Gazette and Daily in York, Pennsylvania.
“I first met Maggie in the summer of 1969 at the York, Pennsylvania, Gazette and Daily, where she was the wire editor and I was a summer replacement reporter,” wrote Philip M. Klinedinst, who later joined The Sun’s copy desk, in an email.
“I worked with her for five summers, learning everything I could from her,” he wrote. “I lost track of her after that until I joined The Sun in 1993. She was a welcoming face and helped me get oriented.”
In 1980, Ms. Lord left the York paper, moved to Windsor Hills, and went to work as a copy editor at The Sun the next year.
“Maggie liked working weekend nights, with Mondays and Tuesdays as her days off. She wanted to be in the office on the busiest nights and didn’t like slow shifts,” Mr. Klinedinst wrote. “She was a stickler for the King’s English, despite not having lived in her native England for decades. She showed a gruff exterior (like most copy editors) but was generous and kind to those who made it past her cold exterior.”
A diminutive soft-spoken blue-eyed woman who wore her hair cut short with hair pulled back and held in place by a barrette, Ms. Lord was unlike most copy editors.
Rather than summoning reporters to her desk to ask questions about their stories, as a measure of respect, she made a visitation to their desk.
If she had to call a reporter at home, she always prefaced her call by saying, “I’m sorry to trouble you, I hope I’m not interrupting, but I have a question.”
“I do not recall any complaint from any writer about her handling of any article in the time she worked for me; my memory is very good, so I am reporting a miracle in this sentence,” Mr. Faith wrote.
“Maggie was assigned mostly to the Metro desk, where correcting errors such as ‘Lincoln Park’ for ‘Leakin Park’ and ‘Alpaca Ford’ for ‘Al Packer Ford’ was important and saved us from a lot of embarrassment,” he wrote.
Mr. Faith said when it came to Ms. Lord, one of his yearly challenges was writing her performance review.
“There were mandatory sections in the evaluation for career objectives and needed improvements. Maggie knew who she was and what she wanted to be, so I couldn’t tempt her with becoming a zone editor or an assistant metro editor,” Mr. Faith wrote.
He added: “She held herself to a higher performance standard than I held her to, so I couldn’t find any pattern of editing error or failure to comply with deadlines to point out.
“Plus, she was extremely sensitive to what I said about her work. But I found she was eager to contribute to how the copy desk operated. Through the years, we talked frequently about problems she saw in copy, errors or omissions in the electronic spelling and hyphenation dictionary, and things that were out of date in the stylebook. She had more to do with how the copy desk operated than anyone realized.”
Mr. McIntyre wrote that Ms. Lord was a “presence on the copy desk” when he joined The Sun in 1986.
“She welcomed me, as she did all newcomers, and guided me in the ways of the desk. She also organized occasional lunches and picnics at which we could get to know one another as people rather than cogs in the operation. Maggie was everyone’s friend.”
Ms. Feeld said: “Margaret was completely aboveboard, modest, authentic, and she had no vanity. She was outward and always thinking of others. She was always very much to the point and clear.”
After retiring from The Sun in the mid-2000s, she returned to work as a part-time copy editor for The Washington Post.
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Throughout her lifetime, Ms. Lord embraced liberal causes and had been a civil rights activist who had “marched in Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King,” Ms. Feild said.
“She became a naturalized American citizen about 15 years ago and I think that resulted in her great interest in American history,” she said. “She could also recite the poetry of Robert Burns or W.H. Auden from memory.”
Ms. Lord’s game of choice was fittingly Scrabble, and she proved to be a rather formidable opponent, leading Tom Boykin, a Broadmead resident and fellow Scrabble player, to write that after he returned to his apartment he told his wife, “I got my butt kicked by a sharp-witted and very intelligent octogenarian woman whose Scrabble skills were absolutely incredible.”
She was an avid walker who enjoyed the outdoors. When she moved to Broadmead about two decades ago, she took long postprandial walks around the retirement community at night.
Plans for a memorial service to be held in the spring are incomplete.
Ms. Lord is survived by her siblings, a brother, John F. Lord of North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, and a sister, Barbara Clayton of Cheshire, United Kingdom; and nieces and nephews.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jacques Kelly contributed to this article.
A previous version of this article misspelled Ann Feild's name. The Sun regrets the error.