Retired Johns Hopkins administrator wrote a humor column for the Harrisburg Patriot-News
Dorothy A. Lebo, a retired Johns Hopkins administrator who wrote a humor column for a Harrisburg newspaper, died of complications of an infection Oct. 13 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The Lutherville resident was 84. Born Dorothy Ann “Dottie” Smith in Williamsport, Pa., she was the daughter of Thelma Rosencrans, a switchboard operator, and Raymond L. Smith.
She was 1949 graduate of John Harris High School, then attended Hood College.
She met her future husband, Donald Lebo, at a Harrisburg drugstore where both worked.
Her husband, serving in the Army, was stationed in Berlin in the aftermath of World War II. During this period Mrs. Lebo sent news dispatches about life in West Germany home to the Harrisburg PatriotNews.
Beginning in 1957, she was offered a column, which she continued to write after the couple moved to Baltimore’s Loch Raven Village in 1959.
Signed Dottie Lebo, the weekly humor feature, “Home at Heart,” ran in the Sunday Patriot-News in Harrisburg from 1957 to 1972.
“When she ran late with a column, she would drive the copy to the Greyhound bus station and dispatch it there to Harrisburg,” recalled her daughter, Diane Wallace of Ithaca, N.Y. “She also sold jokes to comedian Phyllis Diller.”
In 1965 she wrote, “Why is it that a perfectly happy couple ... seem to notice each other’s faults when it comes time to pack the car trunk for vacation? ‘I thought you said we were going to take less this year,’ he says glumly, eyeing the tower of possessions lining the driveway. ‘We are!’ she answers indignantly. ‘Why, we didn’t take the little brown suitcase or the fishbowl or the grill. ‘ What’s that?’ he interrupts. ‘My hair dryer, darling,’ she coos, handing him the can of potato chips and the dog’s blanket.”
Mrs. Lebo’s daughter recalled the writing process: “She would shut the bedroom door and say, ‘I have to write my column.’ She cranked that thing out.
“She won legions of fans for her funny, witty, and often poignant chronicle of the chaos and charms of family life during an era of rapid change in American culture,” her daughter said.
While raising her family, Mrs. Lebo joined the Johns Hopkins University in mid-1960s as a secretary in the biology department. She remained in the administration and was later named an assistant dean in the Office of Student Affairs.
“She helped guide the university’s development of programs and housing for its earliest admitted female students,” said her daughter. “She became a second mom to all students, an effective problem-solver, and an effervescent presence on campus.”
She left the Homewood campus to work in human resources in radiation oncology at the East Baltimore medical campus. She retired in 1997.
“She was deep,” said Simon Arnstein, a former Hopkins medical administrator. “She was an extraordinarily kind, caring person who, in her role as human resources coordinator in a fairly large department, was a mother to us all.”
“She was loved by all who came to know her and especially appreciated for her huge heart, ready smile, warmth, humor and generosity of spirit... and deep interest in others,” said her daughter. “She bestowed her gift with people in every aspect of her life — in her personal life with family, friends, and neighbors and in her professional life. Her door was always open.”
Mrs. Lebo was a voracious reader of contemporary literature, poetry and nonfiction.
“She was a free thinker,” said a grandson, Will Wallace of Ithaca, N.Y. “She was independent and always feeding her intellect with new knowledge.”
She was also a gardener and a lifelong knitter who made afghans for each new baby in her family or for those of her friends.
She and her husband enjoyed vacations to Alaska, the Oregon coast, Martha’s Vineyard, the Eastern Shore and Charleston, S.C.
“My dad was a sailor, but she never really liked the water that much,” her daughter said.
She and her husband also enjoyed Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts.
She belonged to a weekly bridge group. Her daughter said she was an enthusiastic backyard birder, a lover of geese and a fan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s live bird camera, which allowed viewers to watch nesting red-tailed hawks.
A life celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 at Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center, 1525 Marriottsville Road, Marriottsville.
In addition to her daughter and grandson, survivors include a son, David S. Lebo of Gresham, Ore.; another daughter, Donna F. Monger of Ellicott City; and three other grandsons.
Her husband of nearly 50 years, a U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty insurance manager, died in 2002. Dorothy A. Lebo helped develop programs for Johns Hopkins’ first female students.