Dorothy Lebo

Re­tired Johns Hop­kins ad­min­is­tra­tor wrote a hu­mor col­umn for the Har­ris­burg Pa­triot-News

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jacques Kelly jacques.kelly@balt­

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.

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