Mary A. Plumer, faux finish artist, dies

Mary A. Plumer, faux finish artist, dies
Mary Plumer

Mary A. Plumer, who worked for the Johns Hopkins University and was a noted faux finish artist, died Monday of gastrointestinal cancer at her Rodgers Forge home. She was 88.

The former Mary Agnes Zellhofer, the daughter of Peter Zellhofer, a state government worker, and his wife, Regina G. Zellhofer, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in Essex.


She was a 1948 graduate of Seton High School and earned her nursing degree in 1952 from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. She worked as an emergency room nurse at what is now Mercy Medical Center from 1952 until 1963, when she left to have her first child.

She was married in 1957 to Edward Francis Plumer Sr., a Bethlehem Steel Corp. manager.

Mrs. Plumer worked for 34 years for the Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum and Homewood Museum, where she was a docent and staffed the gift shop until retiring this year.

She was a 2000 graduate of what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. From the 1990s until 2005, she owned and operated a business in which she painted floor cloths.

She also was a faux finish expert, and examples of her marbleizing and grain painting finishes, which were fashionable and decorative in the 18th and 19th centuries, can be found in Homewood House, Dumbarton House and the Hampton National Historic Site.

They were applied to painted canvas and wood surfaces that turned “lesser expensive building materials into lustrous expanses of marble, mahogany, walnut and rosewood, through the use of paints, brushes, feathers, and sponges," according to Headlines, a Johns Hopkins publication.

Mrs. Plumer and fellow artist Rosanna Moore conducted a workshop in the technique at Homewood House Museum in 1999.

The Overbrook Road resident enjoyed traveling to England, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France.

Her husband of 45 years died in 2002.

Services are private.

Mrs. Plumer is survived by three sons, Edward F. Plumer Jr. of Rodgers Forge, Andrew G. Plumer of Bel Air and James J. Plumer of Towson; and a grandson.