Patricia Waters, mother of filmmaker, dies at 89

February 16

Patricia W. Waters, a homemaker, Anglophile and mother of filmmaker John Waters, died Feb. 8 at a hospice in Towson, Md. She was 89 and had complications from a fall.

“She was our matriarch,” her son said. “She was an unusually strong and loving mother who was lovely and taught me the articles of good taste, which I turned into a career. She was equally proud of all of her children and their different lives.”

Patricia Whitaker was born in Victoria, B.C., and spent her early years there. After the death of her father in the mid-1930s, she moved with her family to Baltimore.

She was a 1940 graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory School and earned a bachelor’s degree in French in 1944 from Sweet Briar College in Virginia.

Mrs. Waters and her husband of 64 years, John S. Waters, who founded a commercial fire extinguisher business, supported their son John’s interest in filmmaking, which began at their home in Lutherville, Md.


Patirica W. Waters (Baltimore Sun)

The house was the location of their son’s first film, “Hag in a Black Leather Jacket,” a 17-minute short made in 1964 after his grandmother gave him an 8-millimeter movie camera.

Their son’s interest in the offbeat and bizarre began in his childhood. “He always liked the villain — Captain Hook in ‘Peter Pan,’ the Wicked Witch in ‘Snow White,’ ” Mrs. Waters told the Wall Street Journal in a 1983 interview. “I used to think it was strange.”

“She taught us to have a good work ethic and a sense of humor,” said the director, whose movies include “Pink Flamingos,” “Polyester” and “Hairspray.” “We were a very close family, and she always made us feel safe, which really is the only job a parent has to do, and she did it so well.”

Mrs. Waters was a longtime volunteer at the Baltimore County Public Library in Towson, a children’s tutor for years and a member of the board of the Fresh Air Fund.

An opera buff, Mrs. Waters listened every Saturday afternoon to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast from New York City. She also enjoyed playing bridge.

Mrs. Waters was an avid gardener and was a 62-year member and a past president of the Lutherville Garden Club.

During the winter, her greenhouse was in full bloom with orchids, camellias, sweet pea, streptocarpus, primrose, begonias and paperwhites, and in the summer, Mrs. Waters enjoyed tending her flower beds.

“It was a magical childhood, and she was very much a stay-at-home mother,” her daughter Trish Waters said. “She packed our lunches, drove carpool, went to our games and equally supported all of us. She instilled in us a love for the arts and culture, and was always taking us to the ballet, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters and the Smithsonian.”

An Anglophile, Mrs. Waters was a collector of Queen Elizabeth II coronation memorabilia. For more than 20 years, she and her husband, who died in 2008, rented a different home in rural England for a month to experience and enjoy village life.

“We used to call her the ‘Queen of Lutherville,’ ” her son said.

Mrs. Waters enjoyed opening her home for historic and garden tours and often flew the Canadian flag for family celebrations and to welcome out-of-town visitors.

She was a member of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore, where she was the church’s first female lector.

Survivors include her three children, John Waters of Baltimore, Kathleen Waters Marshall Weatherly of Bridgewater, Va., and Patricia “Trish” Waters of Alexandria; a brother, John C. Whitaker of Chevy Chase; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. Another son, Stephen B. Waters, died in 2009.

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