Patricia Waters, mother of filmmaker John Waters, dies at 89

Patricia W. Waters, a homemaker, Anglophile and mother of filmmaker John Waters, died Saturday of complications from a fall and recent surgery at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. She was 89.

"She was our matriarch. She was an unusually strong and loving mother who was lovely and taught me the articles of good taste, which I turned into a career," said John S. Waters Jr. "She was equally proud of all of her children and their different lives."


"First of all, she was the epitome of a lady, and she was a mentor to me," said Martha Ann Robinson, a longtime friend. "We also lived across the street from the Waters family on Morris Avenue in Lutherville. She was so steadfast and loving, and a delight in all ways."

The daughter of Clifford E. Whitaker and Stella Neville Whitaker, Patricia Ann Whitaker was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and spent her early years there. After the death of her father in the mid-1930s, she moved with her family to a home on Whitfield Road in Guilford.


She was a 1940 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School and earned a bachelor's degree in French in 1944 from Sweet Briar College.

Mrs. Waters and her husband of 64 years, John Samuel Waters, who founded a commercial fire-extinguisher business, supported their son John's interest in filmmaking, which began at their Gothic Revival home in Lutherville.

The house was the location of their son's first film, "Hag in a Black Leather Jacket," a 17-minute short that he made in 1964 after his grandmother gave him an 8-millimeter Brownie movie camera.

Their son's interest in the off-beat and bizarre began in his childhood.

"He always liked the villain — Captain Hook in 'Peter Pan,' the Wicked Witch in 'Snow White,' " Mrs. Waters told The Wall Street Journal in a 1983 interview. "I used to think it was strange."

"She taught us to have a good work ethic and a sense of humor," said Mr. Waters. "We were a very close family, and she always made us feel safe, which really is the only job a parent has to do, and she did it so well."

"She was a combination of many things. She was genteel, had lots of class, and a deep faith," said a daughter, Kathleen Waters Marshall Weatherly, who lives in Bridgewater, Va.

"She loved her family and life. I always admired how she managed to put a hot meal on the table in our formal dining room every day at 6 p.m. for the six of us and my grandfather who lived with us," said Ms. Weatherly. "She drove carpools, had her clubs and volunteered."


Mrs. Waters was a longtime volunteer at the Baltimore County Public Library in Towson, tutored city children for years, and was a member of the board of the Fresh Air Fund.

"It was a magical childhood, and she was very much a stay-at-home mother. She didn't have a career and was very family-oriented," said another daughter, Patricia Whitaker "Trish" Waters, who lives in Alexandria, Va.

"She packed our lunches, drove car pool, went to our games and equally supported all of us. She instilled in us a love for the arts and culture, and was always taking us to the ballet, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters and the Smithsonian," said Ms. Waters.

An opera buff, Mrs. Waters listened every Saturday afternoon to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast from New York City. She also enjoyed playing bridge.

Mrs. Waters was an avid gardener and was a member for 62 years and a past president of the Lutherville Garden Club.

During the winter, her greenhouse was in full bloom with orchids, camellias, sweet pea, streptocarpus, primrose, begonias and paperwhites, and in the summer, Mrs. Waters enjoyed tending her flower beds.


An Anglophile, Mrs. Waters was a collector of Queen Elizabeth II coronation memorabilia. For more than 20 years, she and her husband, who died in 2008, rented a different home in rural England for a month in order to experience and enjoy village life.

"We used to call her the 'Queen of Lutherville,' " her son said.

"I am also an Anglophile, and we were both very fond of the royal family," said Mrs. Robinson. "We went to the Chelsea Flower Show and saw the queen twice."

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She also flew the Canadian flag for family celebrations, out-of-town visitors and other occasions.

"If I came up the driveway and saw that flag flying, I knew something great had happened," said Ms. Weatherly.

Mrs. Waters enjoyed opening her home for historic and garden tours. She was an accomplished needleworker and liked playing bridge.


She was a member of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, where she was the church's first female lector.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at her church, 200 Ware Ave., Towson.

In addition to her son and two daughters, Mrs. Waters is survived by a brother, John C. Whitaker of Chevy Chase; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Another son, Stephen Bosley Waters, died in 2009.