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Priscilla M. Tainter-Scherr, former public relations official at Sheppard Pratt, dies

Priscilla M. Tainter-Scherr was fundraising director at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.
Priscilla M. Tainter-Scherr was fundraising director at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital. (HANDOUT)

Priscilla M. Tainter-Scherr, a public relations executive and business owner who helped forge ties between Sheppard Pratt and the Baltimore community, died Aug. 16 of complications stemming from Alzheimer’s disease.

The Towson resident was 94.

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Ms. Tainter-Scherr had a great capacity for joy that enabled her to overcome a daunting array of personal tragedies and that was instrumental in her professional success, according to her daughter, Pamela Tainter-Causey.

“She was multifaceted, but she wasn’t complicated,” Ms. Tainter-Causey said. “Mom just loved all the elements of being alive. She was interested in everything, but you could know her so easily. She was open and transparent and willing to share."

The former Priscilla Musgrove was born in 1925 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the youngest of the five children of Edna and Arthur Musgrove, superintendent of the Musgrove Knitting Mills.

She earned an associate’s degree from Westbrook Junior College in Portland, Maine, in 1944 — the year she married Calvin E. Tainter, a naval pilot stationed in the Pacific during World War II.

The next two decades were spent raising three children and volunteering for organizations from the PTA to the Cub Scouts to the church, where the young mother sang in the choir.

After her children started school, Priscilla Tainter made preliminary forays into the working world, doing office work for her first husband (a semiconductor sales manager) and in a local brokerage firm. But it wasn’t until after the family moved to Timonium in 1964 that she began what would become a rapid professional ascent, rising in nine years from an administrative assistant for the Rev. Robert Galloway at Towson Presbyterian Church to fundraising director at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital.

“She was incredibly creative,” said Sylvia Nudler, who worked for Ms. Tainter-Scherr in the 1980s.

“She’d come in the morning and say, ‘I was drying my hair this morning and I had this idea.’ She’d be working on it by noon. You just knew what was coming and you were excited to be a part of it.”

Ms. Nudler said her former boss was instrumental in establishing Sheppard Pratt’s education center by taking what had been a group of in-house staff training seminars and reaching out to the wider Baltimore community. Her ideas — a series of brown-bag, lunchtime public lecture series on mental health topics at Baltimore City Hall, a Sheppard Pratt calendar filled with fun facts about the institution accompanied by historic photos — might be commonplace now. But four decades ago they were ground-breaking, according to her daughter and former co-worker.

“In 1973, Sheppard Pratt was perceived as this mysterious place beyond a gingerbread gatehouse where people went for a long time when they had issues,” Ms. Tainter-Causey said.

“Mom really helped put a human face on the institution so people could appreciate and understand all the good work that Sheppard Pratt was doing.”

Her positive outlook was all the more remarkable considering the challenges she faced throughout her life. At age 13, her father, Arthur Musgrove, died. Decades later, she lost her mother, sister and brother during one nine-month period in 1975. Her marriage of 35 years ended in divorce in 1979. (Ms. Tainter-Scherr married her second husband, Morris L. Scherr, in 1984.)

Ms. Tainter-Scherr’s son died in 1992, and her eldest daughter died in 2017.

“Despite all of these losses, she never stopped celebrating life,” Ms. Tainter-Causey said. “I don’t know how she did it. But she had a long relationship with God, and there were people who depended on her.”

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Ms. Tainter-Scherr left Sheppard Pratt in 1984 and later that year, opened her own retail business in Towson. Priscilla’s Gallery featured home furnishings and accessories and was located in the Shops in Kenilworth until 1992, when the then-67-year-old woman decided to retire and close the shop.

She spent the next decade travelling, hunting for antiques, and taking classes. She patronized Baltimore’s cultural institutions and regularly treated family members and friends to her gourmet cooking.

Ms. Tainter-Scheer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2001 and lived at the Stella Maris nursing home in Towson since 2006, when she fell and her injuries put her into a wheelchair.

Even as her Alzheimer’s disease progressed, her daughter said, Mrs. Tainter-Scheer never lost her spark.

“She always smiled, and she always insisted on crossing her legs when she was in her wheelchair," Ms. Tainter-Causey said. “Right up until the end, she was a lady.”

Services were private.

In addition to her daughter, Ms. Tainter-Scherr is survived by two stepdaughters; Melissa Scherr-Phillips of Frederick and Anna S. Berman of Warren, New Jersey; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Ms. Tainter-Scherr’s husband of 24 years, Morris L. Scherr, died in 2008. Her son, Jeffrey E. Tainter, died in 1992 and her daughter, Judith T. Mann, died in 2017.

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