Notable deaths in the Washington area

April 16

Obituaries of residents from the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Janis A. Riker, lawyer and bookseller

Janis A. Riker, 69, a lawyer in Columbia, Md., who later sold used, rare and antiquarian books on line and in stores in Columbia and Savage Mill, Md., died April 8 at her home in Portland, Ore. The cause was cancer, said her husband, Daniel Riker.

Mrs. Riker was born Janis Ahalt in Baltimore. In the early 1970s, she was chief of public relations for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. She practiced law in Baltimore and then in Columbia. With her husband, she ran Bassett Books in Columbia and Savage Mill from 1998 to 2012, when they closed the business and moved to Portland from Columbia.

John M. Fowler, physicist, educator

John M. Fowler, 88, a physicist who founded and directed a nonprofit organization to support science and technology education, died April 8 at his home in Silver Spring. The cause was congestive heart failure, said a daughter, Katia Fowler.

Dr. Fowler was born in Eufaula, Ala. From the mid-1980s to 1994, he directed the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education. Earlier, he was director of special projects and publications for the National Science Teachers Association. He edited the 1960 book “Fallout: A Study of Superbombs, Strontium 90, and Survival,” which had a foreword by American statesman Adlai E. Stevenson II, and wrote other environmental texts.

Lorraine Murphy, staff associate for nonprofit

Lorraine Murphy, 95, a staff associate at Meridian International Center in Washington for 25 years until her retirement in the early 1990s, died April 2 at a military retirement center in Washington. The cause was complications from spinal stenosis, said a niece-in-law, Kay Elvrum.

Mrs. Murphy, a former Bethesda resident, was born Lorraine Elvrum in Courtenay, N.D. She was a secretary for the Navy at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941. She traveled with her husband, a Navy captain, on military assignments abroad and studied painting at an art college in London.

Mary W. Hoff, private financial consultant

Mary W. Hoff, 76, a private financial planning consultant since the mid-1980s, died March 19 at her home in Washington. The cause was heart disease, said a daughter, Lydia Kris.

Mrs. Hoff was born Mary Wood in Gloversville, N.Y. Early in her career, she was an officer for the old U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and an education consultant. She was a deacon at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church in Washington and a past board member of Georgetown Day School and Iona Senior Services, a D.C. nonprofit that assists the elderly.

Melinda W. Cooke, Defense Dept. official

Melinda W. Cooke, 64, a personnel accounting policy director for the Defense Department’s Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, died April 5 at her home in Arlington. The cause was cancer, said her husband, John Cooke.

Mrs. Cooke, who was born Melinda Wheeler in Commerce, Tex., joined the Defense Department as a senior intelligence analyst in 1988. She moved to the POW/Missing Personnel Office after its establishment in 1993 and became director in 2006. She received an exceptional civilian service award three times.

Ruth W. Zeller, substitute teacher, tutor

Ruth W. Zeller, 96, a substitute teacher and tutor with Prince George’s County Public Schools from the late 1960s to 1974, died April 8 at an assisted-living center in Adelphi, Md. The cause was sick sinus syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder, said a son, Robert Zeller Jr.

Mrs. Zeller, a Hyattsville resident, was born Helen Walker in Washington. From 1938 to 1950, she taught math and science at Taft Junior High School in the District. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames XVII Century and the Oasis senior services program.

— From staff reports

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