Notable deaths in the Washington area

May 9

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

Ronald D. Palmer, U.S. ambassador, university professor

Ronald D. Palmer, 81, a Foreign Service officer who served as ambassador to Togo, Malaysia and Mauritius and was a professor emeritus of international affairs at George Washington University, died April 21 at an assisted living center in Edgewater, N.J. The cause was a stroke and lung cancer, said a daughter, Alyson Palmer.

Mr. Palmer, a native of Uniontown, Pa., was a 1952 graduate of Howard University and was reportedly the college’s first graduate to pass the Foreign Service exam. He served in the Foreign Service from 1957 to 1989 and then taught at GWU until 2001. He was a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a board member of Children’s Hospice International. The Association of Black American Ambassadors honored him in 2007 as a pioneer. He moved to Edgewater from Washington in 2010.

Grey Hodnett, CIA senior analyst

Grey Hodnett, 78, a Soviet affairs expert and senior analyst with the CIA’s directorate of intelligence from 1977 until his retirement in 1997, died April 24 at his family’s home in Little Rock. He had Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Kay Hodnett.

Dr. Hodnett, a New York City native, lived in Washington from 1977 to 2001 and later moved to Hilton Head, S.C. At the CIA, he served in the National Intelligence Council and was an assistant national intelligence officer to then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who later wrote that he was influenced by Dr. Hodnett’s 1989 intelligence assessment that correctly anticipated the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Gertrude W. ‘Bobby’ Lerch, Girl Scout official

Gertrude W. “Bobby” Lerch, 104, the first president of what became the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, died April 12 at her home in Chevy Chase, Md. The cause was complications from strokes, said a son, Harry Lerch.

Mrs. Lerch was born Gertrude Walter in San Francisco and grew up in Cokeville, Wyo. As Girl Scout council president, she led efforts to integrate the organization’s regional summer camps and was instrumental in establishing the Juliette Low Legacy Society, a financial support group, her son said. In 2014, she received an honor marking her nine decades of involvement with the Girl Scouts. She was also the first woman to serve as president of the United Way of the National Capital Area and a past church council president of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the District.

Nettie E. Lawrey, library assistant supervisor

Nettie E. Lawrey, 93, an assistant supervisor at Twinbrook Library in Rockville, Md., from 1975 to 1995 and then a volunteer there until the early 2000s, died April 10 at a nursing home in Rockville. The cause was coronary heart disease, said a daughter, Elizabeth Young.

Mrs. Lawrey, a Rockville resident, was born Nettie Evans in Laneview, Va. From 1962 to 1973, she taught at Rockville Nursery School and Kindergarten. She volunteered with the Manna Food Center in Rockville and was a founding member of Rockville’s Twinbrook Baptist Church. With her husband, she received a community award in 2005 from Peerless Rockville, a historic preservation society.

Vicki A. Lambert, teacher, poet

Vicki A. Lambert, 75, a science teacher in the late 1970s at the private Potomac School in McLean, Va., and a poet, died April 5 at her home in the District. The cause was cancer, said her brother, Robert L. Asher, a former Washington Post editorial writer.

Mrs. Lambert, a D.C. native, was born Vicki Asher. She wrote poems under the pseudonym Anne Ward Jamieson, and her work appeared in such publications as Birmingham Poetry Review. She handled special book requests and inquiries at the old B. Dalton bookstore in the District in the 1980s. She was a trainer and judge with Capital Dog Training Club in Silver Spring, Md., and volunteered at Children’s National Medical Center in the District.

James W. Lassiter, Defense Dept. electronics engineer

James W. Lassiter, 85, an electronics engineer with the Defense Department for 30 years before his retirement in 1985, died April 28 at his home in Derwood, Md. The cause was acute myeloid leukemia, said a sister, Diane Mathison.

Earlier in his career, the District native worked as an electronics engineer for the National Bureau of Standards. He served in the Coast Guard from 1952 to 1954.

Martin I. Stoller, economist

Martin I. Stoller, 91, an economist who retired in 2002 as a principal and investment adviser with the Caribbean Basin Partners for Progress, a private development bank, died April 21 at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. The cause was pneumonia, said his wife, Marjory Stoller.

Mr. Stoller was born in New York City, where he served as a top economist in the 1950s. He settled in the D.C. area in 1965 and worked for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and as a delegate to the Organization of American States. He later was a vice president of the Earth Satellite Corp. and worked for the World Bank as a Latin American and Caribbean specialist. He was a Bethesda resident and a past president of the Edgemoor Citizens Association.

Shirley Sue Howard, obstetrician gynecologist

Shirley Sue Howard, 94, an obstetrician gynecologist who practiced in the District and then Falls Church, Va., from 1950 to 1986, died April 24 at a hospital in Alexandria, Va. The cause was pneumonia and dementia, said a daughter, Susan Askren.

Dr. Howard was born Shirley Sue Martin in Amherstdale, W.Va., and was one of only eight women in her medical school class of 1943 at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. Most recently, she lived in Alexandria.

Benjamin Greenspoon, SEC lawyer

Benjamin Greenspoon, 86, a lawyer who retired from the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1990 as an associate general counsel in charge of litigation in ­cases defending the agency, died April 20 at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. The cause was a heart attack, said a daughter, Julie Greenspoon.

Mr. Greenspoon, a resident of Chevy Chase, Md., was born in Hancock, Md. Early on, he was a partner in the law firm Margolius, Greenspoon and Deckelbaum, which developed a specialty defending police officers in civil and criminal litigation. He joined the SEC in 1974. After his federal retirement, he spent several years with the law firm Dechert Price and Rhoads supervising securities litigation. He was a past board chairman of the American Diabetes Association.

Phyllis Palmer, GWU professor

Phyllis Palmer, 70, a professor emeritus of the American studies and women’s studies programs at George Washington University whose scholarly studies focused on race, gender and social justice, died April 13 at her home in the District. The cause was cancer, said a cousin, Rosemary Barnes.

Dr. Palmer was born Phyllis Marynick in Dallas. She joined the GWU faculty in 1977 and directed the women’s studies program and served as chairwoman of the American studies department. Her books included “Domesticity and Dirt” (1989), a study of American housewives and their servants in the early 20th century; and “Living as Equals” (2008), about the pro-integration D.C. community group Neighbors Inc. She retired in 2009.

Richard B. Dingman, conservative activist

Richard B. Dingman, 79, a federal employee who retired in 1983 and became executive vice president of the Free Congress Foundation conservative political organization, died April 23 at a hospital in Arlington, Va. The cause was pancreatic cancer, said a son-in-law, Jeff Kaminsky.

Mr. Dingman, a Vienna, Va., resident and former councilman, was born in Baltimore. He was a civilian with the Army Map Service, a senior congressional aide and executive director of the House Republican Study Committee before joining the Free Congress Foundation. During his seven years with the group, he helped start the conservative satellite network National Empowerment Television. He also helped organize the first Bible Reading Marathon on the U.S. Capitol’s steps in 1990.

Frank Farner, World Bank official

Frank Farner, 86, a World Bank official specializing in Asian educational projects from 1976 to 1992 who then as a consultant managed the bank’s graduate scholarship program for many years, died April 7 at his home in Topsham, Maine. The cause was cardiovascular failure, said a daughter, Ann Miller.

Dr. Farner, a Denver native, received the Bronze Star Medal for his Army service in the Korean War. He was an associate dean at the University of Oregon before a stormy tenure in 1967 to 1969 as the first president of Federal City College, which later became the University of the District of Columbia. He clashed with the faculty and the D.C. Board of Higher Education over policy and curriculum. He moved to Maine from Mason Neck, Va., in 2006.

Ruth Kaye, research historian

Ruth Kaye, 95, a freelance research historian who wrote hundreds of histories about houses in Old Town Alexandria as well as a two-volume history of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, died April 30 at a hospital in Charlottesville. The cause was pneumonia, said a daughter, Larisa Hinton.

Mrs. Kaye was born Ruth Lincoln in Buffalo and grew up in Daytona Beach, Fla. She was a piano teacher from 1944 to 1957. As a historian, she wrote a history of the old Alexandria Hospital, among other volumes. Her memberships included the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. She moved to Crozet, Va., from Alexandria in 2013.

Beulah Bleiberg, volunteer

Beulah Bleiberg, 89, a former psychologist who served on the advisory board of the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, died May 2 at her home in Springfield, Va. The cause was complications from heart disease, said a son, Lawrence Bleiberg.

Mrs. Bleiberg was born Beulah Matt in Minneapolis and grew up in Philadelphia. In the 1950s, she was a psychologist working for the City of Philadelphia. In the 1970s, she did secretarial work at Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax County, a synagogue where she was a member. In the late 1990s, she was active in the successful effort to preserve the historic Blenheim home in Fairfax City when the property was being threatened by development; the city purchased the land, which now hosts the Civil War Interpretive Center.

Martin B. Booth, psychiatrist

Martin B. Booth, 87, a psychiatrist in private practice in the District from 1958 to 2009 who specialized in treating mentally disturbed children from low-income families, died April 7 at a hospital in Westminster, Md. The cause was a heart ailment, said his wife, Patricia Booth.

Dr. Booth, a Bethesda resident, was born in Gloucester County, Va. He was an assistant professor at Howard University’s medical school from 1960 to 1980, which was followed by seven years as a psychiatrist with the D.C. Department of Mental Health’s child and adolescent division. He was a lifetime member of the National Medical Association.

Gudrun Huden, USAID employee

Gudrun Huden, 79, who retired in 1996 as an environmental officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, died April 28 at a hospice in Columbia, Md. The cause was ovarian cancer, said a daughter, Johanna Huden.

Mrs. Huden, a Columbia resident, was born Gudrun Hartig in Berlin. She settled in the Washington area in 1959 and was a research assistant for cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall in the 1960s. She joined USAID in 1976 and helped in the agency’s response to natural disasters, including famine in Africa. She was a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Md., where she created a prayer group that gave shawls to those in need. She also helped make elaborate quilts that were auctioned to raise money for the poor in Washington and Baltimore.

Edgar Cortright, NASA executive

Edgar Cortright, 90, a NASA scientist and administrator who directed Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., when it successfully landed the first spacecraft on Mars in 1976, died May 4 at a healthcare center in Scarborough, Maine. The cause was a stroke, said a daughter, Susan Weiss.

Mr. Cortright, a resident of Palm City, Fla., was born in Hastings, Pa.He spent his career with NASA and its predecessor agency, initially conducting research on supersonic aerodynamics. He later played a role planning and directing manned and unmanned space programs. He chaired the Apollo 13 review board in 1970 that investigated the causes of the troubled manned spaceflight. Among his post-NASA jobs was the presidency of the defense contractor Lockheed-California Co.

Paul M. Routly, Naval Observatory official

Paul M. Routly, 88, who directed the U.S. Naval Observatory’s astronomy and astrophysics division from 1968 to 1986, died May 2 at a retirement community in Rockville. The cause was congestive heart failure, said a daughter, Paula Routly.

Dr. Routly was born in Chester, Pa. He was an astronomy professor at Pomona College in California and executive director of the American Astronomical Society in Princeton, N.J., now based in Washington, before joining the Naval Observatory. He was a volunteer at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

— From staff reports

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