Shirley D. Cammack, Kernan Hospital worker

Shirley D. Cammack, Kernan Hospital worker
Shirley Deane Cammack had been in the British intelligence service during the Cold War.

Shirley Deane Cammack, a retired Kernan Hospital worker who was in the British intelligence service during the Cold War, died of cancer Nov. 19 while on vacation with her family at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico. The former Dickeyville resident was 80.

"She will always be remembered for her zest for life, her wit and wonderful laugh, and her ability to light up a room with her charm, fun and grace," said a friend and neighbor, Libby Sfekas of Dickeyville.


Born Shirley Deane on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, she was the daughter of Lancelot Victor Deane, who was in the British India Civil Service, and Mary Lowis Deane, his wife. According to a family biography, she began her education with a summer term at the Garden School in Gulmarg, Kashmir. At 13, she was sent to England and became a boarder at Heron's Ghyll School in Horsham. The family retained their London townhouse on Caroline Terrace for many years.

There she began a lifelong affection for the theater and the works of Shakespeare. She was trained by a fellow student, Virginia McKenna, who became a professional actress and went on to star in the 1966 film, "Born Free."

Family members said that after she finished her schooling, she became a debutante in London. She was presented to Queen Elizabeth at one of the last Court Presentations before the custom ended.

Mrs. Cammack then enrolled in a London secretarial college and was later recruited by the British Foreign Office.

"She began a career in the British Foreign Service," said her neighbor, Libby Sfekas. "She was stationed in Frankfurt and Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Much of what went on then is still secret."

Friends said she tired of the social life in England and transferred to the British delegation of the United Nations in New York after arriving in the U.S. aboard the Queen Mary.

"Her duties with the UN included tours in Jerusalem and Palestine," said Mrs. Sfekas. "One of her stories was of riding a camel to the beach in Gaza while dressed in a bikini. While there, she befriended the commanding officer of the Gordon Highlanders, a Scottish regiment, and persuaded him to play the bagpipes, dressed in full regalia, outside her bedroom window at dawn. It was a reveille that was probably not welcomed."

She later returned to the United Nations offices in New York, where she met her first husband, B. Beverley Byrd, the son of Sen. Harry F. Byrd of Virginia.

They married and lived in Berryville, Va., where she entertained President Lyndon B. Johnson and other dignitaries. Friends said she enjoyed the country life and traveled extensively with her husband. She also founded a book club to read the Great Books. She had learned to ride in India and became a member of the Blue Ridge Hunt.

"Her love for the open spaces of the countryside led her to serve on the Clarke County Planning Commission, where she helped to lay the groundwork for Open Space Zoning, still in effect today," said her son, B. Beverley Bird of Berryville.

After divorcing Mr. Byrd and leaving Virginia, she moved to Baltimore and married the Rev. David Cammack, an Episcopal priest. Friends said she complemented her husband's work in his parishes at St. Mary's in Woodlawn, Trinity in Waterloo, and Emmanuel in Mount Vernon. After her husband's retirement, they resided in Dickeyville, where she wrote humorous plays performed by community residents on July Fourth. She also wrote light poetry.

"She was one of the most intelligent, charming, witty women I have ever known," said Donna Hamilton, the WBAL-TV anchor, who was a neighbor and friend. "She was amazing."

Mrs. Cammack worked at Kernan Hospital for nearly 20 years. She was a social worker and public relations officer. She was also director of Amputee Services and was recognized for her work with a citation from Gov. William D. Schaefer. She researched "A History of Kernan Hospital, 1895-1995" and a biography of the hospital's namesake, James Lawrence Kernan, who lived from 1838 to 1912.

She and her husband moved to the Fairhaven Episcopal Retirement Community in Sykesville, where she retained her interest in the theater and Shakespeare.


She was a co-founder of the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, which traces its origins to a high school troupe at Century High School in Sykesville. The Factory is now located on Roland Avenue in Hampden.

"She started coming into the school and working with students," said Tom Delise, a Century High School English teacher, who lives in Bolton Hill. "She was a remarkable woman and a giving woman. She had strong opinions and could argue over the interpretation of one word in a play. She had a sharp mind and was inquisitive. She loved Shakespeare and considered all the nuances in his work. She also just loved working with the kids and took so much joy in watching what they did. She was non-stop. She lived a full life."

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Fairhaven Retirement Community Chapel, 7200 Third Ave. in Sykesville.

In addition to her son, survivors include her husband of 40 years; a brother, Timothy M. Deane of Tisbury, England; a stepson, Thomas W. Cammack of Berryville, Va.; five stepdaughters, Westwood B. Byrd of Richmond, Va., Anne R. Dean of England, Sally Nelson Cammack of Colorado Springs, Colo., Elizabeth Diamond of Chicago and Cordelia Sand of Wadhams, N.Y.; and two grandchildren.