Gertrude Louise PoeSeptember 21, 1915 ~ July 13, 2017 (age 101)
Gertrude Louise Poe was born on September 21, 1915 in Granite, Maryland. On July 13, 2017, her heavenly father took her home to be with her sisters, parents and countless family members and friends. She spent most of her life working and living in Laurel, Maryland where she was the editor of The News Leader (now The Laurel Leader) for 41 years. She lived her almost 102 years within 20 miles of her birthplace and was proud to say she never lived outside of her beloved state of Maryland.
After graduating from Laurel High School at 15, she started working as a secretary for $5 a week at the law offices of George P. McCeney, located at 357 Main Street in Laurel. She left briefly to attend Washington College of Law where she received her Juris Doctor in 1939. Her plans to return to practice law were redirected when G. Bowie McCeney, who had taken over his father’s law practice, gave her the assignment of editing a weekly newspaper he had received as payment for a debt. Her success as an editor resulted in recognition that included the title of First Lady of Journalism for the State of Maryland. During her life time, she was the “first woman” on many fronts including being the first female president of a press association in the United States. In 2011, she was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/poe.html.
During WWII, she not only handled The News Leader, but The Bowie Register, The College Park News, The Beltsville Banner and an insurance business, all owned by McCeney. She even became a broadcaster on the local scene when radio station WLMD opened in Laurel. Gertrude never saw herself as an orator, but after being asked to speak regularly at local events, she applied the philosophy she had for the rest of her life, if you do something, do so to the very best of your ability. She was known for always being on topic and took great care to provide points people could ponder, including just the right mix of wit. Her popular Pen Points column gave her an opportunity to “talk out loud” with readers. It combined philosophy with editorial comment and “a dash of personal reference.” In addition to writing, she loved to entertain, dance, travel, read, sip Sherry and enjoy the beauty of God’s creations. She was a patron of many local theatres, but dedicated herself to The Olney Theatre where she was instrumental in helping to transform this Summer Stock stage to a year-round performing arts campus.
At the time of her retirement in 1980, Gertrude received a tribute by the Honorable Gladys Noon Spellman in the Congressional Record. Here is an excerpt: “Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.’ Had he known Gertrude Poe, he would have added ‘or one woman.’ … The institution is our town newspaper, The News Leader. Throughout her 41-year association with the paper, Gertrude L. Poe was more than its editor and its publisher, she was its guiding force and spirit, and, as such, she had unequaled unique impact on both the newspaper and the community it serves.”
She was an honorary lifetime member of the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, the first woman and first living member to be inducted into the Maryland-Delaware DC Press Association Hall of Fame, and received the Emma C. McKinney Memorial Award from the national Newspaper Association in 1965. More awards and honors can be seen at: Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series): http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/015200/015217/html/15217bio.html
Following her retirement, Gertrude moved to Ashton, Maryland. She returned to Laurel often to attend her beloved First United Methodist Church of Laurel, participate in the Garden Club of Laurel, serve as a board member emeritus for the Laurel Historical Society and continue to support many community events and organizations.
When she was in her 80s, she took on the task of writing her memoir, Lady Editor. It was a gift to her family and a sought after “read” to all who had the opportunity to borrow a copy. Lady Editor is the story of a modest farm girl’s remarkable journey through the 20th century that earned her a place in local, state and national history.
Gertrude, known as Trudy by family and friends, was the youngest of five daughters born to Worthy and Bertha Poe. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her sisters, Verna Poe, Myrtle Donaldson, Ruby King and Margaret Vogts; and her niece, Joyce Ann Donaldson Burk. Although she never married, her family is large. She is survived by two nieces, Joanne King Rodgers and Jacqueline King Ryder (John H.); 10 great nieces and great nephews, Vicci Rodgers, David Rodgers, Lisa Kuehl, Dan Rodgers, Amy Salmon, Michael Ryder, Craig Ryder, Tom Ryder, Jennifer Burk and Rebecca Stewart. Her great grandnieces, great grandnephews and great great grandnieces and great great grandnephews total more than 25, all of whom will dearly miss her leadership and love.
A Celebration of Life Service is open to the public at 11 a.m. August 12, 2017 at First United Methodist Church of Laurel, 424 Main Street. Interment will be private.
Charitable donations in honor of Gertrude may be made to:
First United Methodist Church of Laurel, attn.: The Poe Endowment Fund http://fumcl.org/worship/the-poe-chapel/
The Olney Theatre, attn.: Poe Opening Night Fund
The Laurel Historical Society, attn.: Poe Memorial Fund for the digitization of The Laurel Leader
Below is the link to the article published by the Baltimore Sun.
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