Nellie M. Semans, a homemaker and former board member of several historic homes and medical facilities, who was also co-manager of a family farm in Virginia, died Dec. 29 from melanoma at her Brooklandville home.
She was 90.
“She had style, substance and humility beyond compare,” Clinton R. Daly, a longtime friend who lives in Brooklandville, wrote in an email. “She possessed the strength of her own faith and conviction. Her statements and pronouncements had gravitas and purpose.”
Dr. William B. Fritz, a retired internist, is another friend of many years.
“Nellie Semans was beautiful in face and character and her passion in life were her devotion to her husband, children and grandchildren, and was a cherished friend to me,” said Dr. Fritz, a Ruxton resident.
“She was a lady of great faith, a gracious hostess, an accomplished golfer and avid reader. She was especially well-known for her thoughtfulness and general acts of kindness,” he said.
The former Nellie Merrick was born in Baltimore, the daughter of William S Merrick Sr., a banker and investor who was president of the Greenway Apartments Co., and his wife, Helen McEvoy Merrick, a homemaker.
She spent her early years living at 3 Mount Vernon Place, now part of the Walters Art Museum, and in 1932 moved with her family to a home on Woodbrook Lane in the Woodbrook neighborhood of Baltimore County.
After graduating in 1947 from the Bryn Mawr School, Mrs. Semans traveled extensively throughout Europe, and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art.
During the 1950s until 1960, she worked for the president of what is now Loyola University Maryland, where she was also the nutritionist for the Jesuits who lived there.
“One day, they put a note on her desk that said, ‘Only two of the Jesuits liked turnips,’” said her husband of 58 years, Truman T. Semans Sr., vice chairman of Brown Investment & Advisory Trust Co., and a former Alex. Brown & Sons general partner, with a laugh.
After her marriage, Mrs. Semans became a homemaker and raised the couple’s two sons at their then-Owings Mills home.
She had been a trustee of the Hammond--Harwood House, the historic Annapolis home that was built in 1774 for Matthias Hammond, a wealthy Anne Arundel County farmer, and also was on the board of Mount Clare, the 18th century Southwest Baltimore home of Charles Carroll the Barrister.
She also had been a trustee of Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Keswick Multi-Care Center.
Since 1967, Mrs. Semans and her husband have owned Hobby Horse Farm, a 700-acre farm near Hot Springs, Va., of which she was co-manager.
“It’s a beautiful spot and in the heart of the Alleghenies and from the farm you can look westward for 50 to 70 miles,” her husband said. “We raised hay and Pure Black Angus Cattle and had raised sheep until we were done in by the coyotes.”
“Hobby Horse Farm was her Shangri-La and she made it so for the innumerable people with whom they shared it,” Mr. Daly wrote. “She was an eternal optimist. After all, who plants a grape arbor at 82?”
A tall, striking, willowy woman who was known for her sense of humor, Mrs. Semans enjoyed presiding over elegant and fun-filled dinner parties that often featured Maryland cuisine and inspired good conversation, which Mr. Daly recalled came to an end when she began flashing the lights.
A woman of unbounded energy, she also maintained a vigorous correspondence even when traveling. “Nellie was known for her prompt thank you notes and postcards from the road,” Mr. Daly wrote.
“She is my godmother and I’ve known her for a very, very long time,” said Wally Pinkard Jr., a Cross Keys resident.
Mrs. Semans was diagnosed nine years ago with the disease that would end her life.
“She was probably one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever known. Late in life as she struggled with her own health, she called me to ask for my daughter’s address who had just had a baby so she could send a present,” Mr. Pinkard said. “She was always thinking of others.”
The Morning Sun Newsletter
Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Semans is survived by two sons, Truman T. Semans Jr. of Winston-Salem, N.C., and William M. Semans of Durham, N.C.; two brothers, William S. Merrick Jr. and Samuel S. Merrick, both of Timonium; two sisters, Charlton M. McLean of Lutherville and Agnes M. Merrick of Cockeysville; and six grandchildren.