Steven Hargrove, longtime Baltimore County librarian, dies

Steven Hargrove, a longtime Baltimore County librarian who had a penchant for photographing nature, died Jan. 23 of fibroblastic sarcoma at his mother's home in Pikesville. He was 61.

The Parkville man loved art, literature, sports, music and, above all, knowledge — and he seemed to know a little bit about everything, his family said.


"He was the original free spirit in the truest, loveliest sense of the word," said his older brother, John Hargrove, 63, of Mount Washington.

Born to the late Judge John R. Hargrove Sr. and Shirley H. Hargrove, a teacher and guidance counselor, Steven Louis Hargrove was the second of four children. Judge Hargrove was the first black federal prosecutor in Baltimore and the first black deputy U.S. attorney.


He grew up across from Hanlon Park in Northwest Baltimore, where he loved to watch African-American Baltimore Colts players practice. He attended Franklin Roosevelt Elementary School, and later went to Gilman School in Roland Park.

At Gilman, Mr. Hargrove played sports, performed with the glee club, the Traveling Men a cappella group, and the Gilman Summer Theater, later known as the Young Victorian Theater Company.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree in the history of science from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., in 1977. He returned to Baltimore, where he was employed in the city court system and at a publishing company, during which he published two books of poetry.

He also worked in retail and was a percussionist for two bands, the Love Commandos and Mambo Combo, in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Mr. Hargrove later left a management position at a private bookstore to become a Baltimore County librarian in the late 1990s, and he earned a master's degree in library science at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2002.

His library career spanned more than 19 years at the Towson and Woodlawn libraries, his brother said. He retired in 2013, six years after receiving his sarcoma diagnosis.

Mr. Hargrove loved the Ravens, and when he wasn't attending games with family members, he was often voicing his feelings to the television during games, his brother said.

Mr. Hargrove was baptized at St. Cecilia Catholic Church and raised Catholic. A deeply spiritual person, he explored different religions throughout his life and began practicing Siddha yoga in his 30s.


"He had a circuitous spiritual past, but he was clearly connected to God all the way through," said his sister, the Rev. Lora F. Hargrove of Owings Mills.

For Mr. Hargrove, meditation and photography went hand in hand — both allowed him to immerse himself in the peacefulness and solitude of the natural world, said his other sister, Janet Ryczko, 53, of Frederick.

"He could look for the beauty in insects, butterflies, water," Mrs. Ryczko said.

Brilliant colors and natural themes were mainstays in the self-taught photographer's work. A gallery of his work remains online, featuring sunlit reflections in rippling water at Lake Roland Park, abstract close-ups of volcanic rocks, and beach scenes found on walks during annual family vacations in Cape May, N.J.

His family said "Uncle Steve" liked to give unique gifts to his nieces and nephew, including his own framed, "museum-quality" photographs. Mr. Hargrove never married or had children.

Lora Hargrove, assistant pastor at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville, said her brother attended her 10-year anniversary service and was one of several who wrote her notes congratulating her.

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"He spoke of how he felt God moved through me," she said. "But not just through me. Steven saw God moving through anyone he encountered. He had a respect for people's individual and spiritual process."

Mr. Hargrove's spirituality shone through during his nearly 10 years of battling his disease, his family said. Through surgery after surgery, an arm amputation, the removal of his clavicle, he maintained focus with the mantra "'This is my life's journey, and I'm just going to live it."

"Every time, even with the bad news we were getting, his attitude was, 'It is what it is,'" Lora Hargrove said. "He would say that repeatedly, with a smile on his face, focusing on the next milestone, the next positive event."

A reception will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Bernardine Catholic Church, 3812 Edmondson Ave., followed by a Mass of Christian burial at 11 a.m.

In addition to his mother, brother and sisters, Mr. Hargrove is survived by four nieces, a nephew, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, including special friend LeeAnn Rostron.