George W. Thorn

Medical Institute Executive

George W. Thorn, 98, former board chairman of the Chevy Chase-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a medical research organization and one of the nation's largest philanthropic institutions, died of respiratory failure June 26 at a rehabilitation facility in Beverly, Mass.

Dr. Thorn, an endocrinologist and expert in metabolic diseases, worked in Boston much of his career, notably as chief of medicine at what is now Brigham and Women's Hospital. He was a former professor of theory and practice of physic at Harvard Medical School.

He was among the first to use cortisone for treating Addison's disease, a life-threatening lack of adrenal function; a member of the medical team that performed one of the first successful kidney transplants in the 1950s; and a founding editor and editor-in-chief of "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine," a major medical textbook.

His affiliation with the Hughes institute began in 1955, two years after its founding by the renowned industrialist and hypochondriac. Initially Dr. Thorn was director of research and a member of the institute's medical advisory board. He played a significant role in its growth, helping to form relationships with existing universities and research groups.

When Hughes was alive, institute officers were not allowed to talk to the press or to Hughes, Dr. Thorn told The Washington Post in 1986.

"It was terribly frustrating," he said. "The problem, very frequently, was that we could not get a decision from Mr. Hughes on what to do. So I would make a recommendation, and if I received no answer in two weeks, I would proceed -- knowing that my head could get cut off."

Much of Dr. Thorne's legacy was in leading the institute through the rocky years after Hughes's death in 1976. The businessman, who had no will, had made himself the sole trustee for years.

Dr. Thorn became a member of the executive committee after Hughes's death. He was institute president from 1981 to 1984 and chairman of the board of trustees from 1984 to 1990.

He was interim president in 1987 after the resignation of Donald S. Fredrickson following alleged financial improprieties.

The institute now has an endowment of more than $11 billion and an annual budget of about $600 million.

George Widmer Thorn was a native of Buffalo, N.Y., and a graduate of the College of Wooster in Ohio. He was a 1929 graduate of the University of Buffalo medical school, having partly paid for his schooling by playing tenor banjo in a dance band.

Early in his career, he taught at Ohio State and Johns Hopkins universities. He also conducted key studies concerning salt and water metabolism as well as the effect of high altitude on adrenal function.

The National Academy of Sciences gave him its 1997 Public Welfare Medal, its most prestigious award.

His wives died, Doris Weston in 1984 and Claire Steinert Weston in 1990.

Survivors include a son from his first marriage, Weston Thorn of New York; and two stepchildren.

Bathrus Bailey 'Babs' Williams

Special Education Teacher

Bathrus Bailey "Babs" Williams, 88, who retired from the Montgomery County school system as a special education teacher at Damascus High School, died June 21 at her home in Washington after a stroke.

In the late 1950s, Dr. Williams did social work for the D.C. Juvenile Court. She then held counseling and teaching positions at MacFarland Junior High School, Roosevelt High School and Taft Junior High School, all in Washington.

She began working for the Montgomery County school system in the late 1960s, including Francis Scott Key Middle School, the Rock Terrace School and Parkland Middle School. She worked at Damascus High School from 1977 to 1985.

She was a former president of the National Council for the Handicapped. In the late 1960s, she helped start a summer school program for special education students in Montgomery County.

In retirement, she was a volunteer teacher for children with learning disabilities and special needs.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation listed her as a social work pioneer, one of her many awards.

She was born in Alexandria and raised in Philadelphia. She was a graduate of Virginia Union University in Richmond. At the time, she had a role in starting the National Youth Council of the NAACP and later was active in picketing and fundraising for groups fighting segregation in public accommodations.

At Catholic University of America, she received a master's degree in social work and a doctorate in special education.

President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the National Commission on Neighborhoods, which tried to find solutions to deteriorating communities, and President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the National Commission on Mental Health.

She did volunteer work for the Republican Party and was a former president of the Virginia White Speel Republican Womens' Club.

She helped start what is now the National Association of Bench and Bar Spouses, the spouses' auxiliary of the National Bar Association.

At her death, she was a board member of Zion Baptist Church in Washington and Virginia Union University.

Her husband, Wesley S. Williams Sr., whom she married in 1941, died in 1988.

Survivors include two children, Wesley S. Williams Jr. of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington and Marialice Downing of Washington; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Sandra Sung-Ah Lentz

Translator, Hospitality Manager

Sandra Sung-Ah Lentz, 49, a translator for the courts, a hospitality manager and an employee of United Airlines, died June 12 as a result of a single-car rollover accident in Loudoun County.

Mrs. Lentz worked on the reservations desk for United Airlines at Dulles International Airport, which gave her the flexibility to also serve as a translator for federal and district courts in Washington, her husband said.

Born in Seoul, Mrs. Lentz taught the Korean language to Peace Corps volunteers as a high school graduate. She was an international tour manager and interpreter for Global Tours Co. Ltd. of Seoul in the late 1970s, a job in which she broke ground for professional women. In a culture that seldom had seen women in leadership roles, Mrs. Lentz, at age 21, led a group of 30 Korean businessmen on a two-month tour of the United States.

She became public relations manager of the Hyatt Hotel in Seoul and founded the Hyatt Executive Reservations Service in Seoul in 1981. After marrying in 1984 and moving to the United States, Mrs. Lentz graduated in 1986 from Sweet Briar College with a degree in economics and business management. She received a master's degree in hospitality management in 1995 from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

She recently used her hospitality skills to coordinate a trip to Boston for the McLean High School Band. She was a volunteer with the band parents association. Mrs. Lentz was a member of McLean Bible Church at Tysons Corner.

Survivors include her husband of 20 years, Paul Lentz of Falls Church; two children, Jacqueline Lentz and Phillip Lentz, both of Falls Church; a sister; and three brothers.

Nancy C. Spencer


Nancy Carole Middleton Spencer, 53, who volunteered with Homestretch, a Northern Virginia agency that works with homeless families, died of scleroderma June 17 at Cherrydale Health and Rehabilitation Center in Arlington.

She was born in Sheffield, Ala., and attended Auburn University.

Mrs. Spencer was a member of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Annandale. She was a member of the Falls Church Women's Club, the Questers and the Goldfish Club.

She also volunteered with the Boys Scouts and the Falls Church Community Service Council.

Survivors include her husband, David E. Spencer of Falls Church; a son, S. David Spencer of Falls Church; a sister; and a brother.

Charles Seymour Decker Jr.

University Housing Director

Charles "Chuck" Seymour Decker Jr., 83, a retired assistant housing director for the University of Maryland, died of congestive heart failure May 24 at his home in North Bend, Ore.

Mr. Decker began working at the university in the 1970s, directing dormitory and other major remodeling projects. He retired in 1985.

He was born in Toledo and grew up in Ladysmith, Wis. During World War II, he served as a pharmacist's mate first class with the Marines in the South Pacific.

Mr. Decker graduated with a bachelor's degree from George Washington University, after going to night school while working full time at Washington Gas Light Co. in customer service from 1948 to 1956.

He also worked at the American Chemical Society in personnel and the Computer Sciences Corp. in the early 1960s and was contracted to the then-Atomic Energy Commission in Germantown.

He lived in Landover Hills from 1948 to 1989, when he moved first to Coquille, Ore. He moved to North Bend in 1999.

He was a charter member of VFW Post 8950 in Greenbelt and active in its annual Christmas food drives. He was instrumental in the creation of the Landover Hills Swimming Pool and was a dedicated square dancer with the Belles & Buoys Square Dance Club.

His wife of 54 years, Romell Louise Decker, died in 1999.

He also was preceded in death by his daughter, Sandra Elizabeth Decker, on May 7. Sandra Decker, 55, who was a senior software analyst at E-Systems from 1985 to 1995, died of carbon monoxide asphyxiation in her home in Springfield.

Survivors include two children, Charles Seymour Decker III of Yellville, Ark., and Judith Decker Wickham of Coquille, Ore.; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Kathleen M. Cody

TV Cooking Show Host

Kathleen M. Cody, 74, a former television host of food shows, died of pneumonia June 19 at Suburban Hospital. She was a Bethesda resident.

Mrs. Cody, a native of Newton Center, Mass., was the daughter of Fred Maguire, a Major League Baseball player. She graduated from Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

She produced and hosted her own television programs in the 1950s that were among the earliest food shows aired. She hosted "Menu Magic" on WBZ in Boston and "Taste Time" on WRBG in Schenectady, N.Y., for a number of years.

She also taught school in Boston and at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H. She won a Red Cross medal for saving the life of a drowning swimmer off the Massachusetts coast in the 1940s.

Her family moved to the Washington area in 1969, when her husband joined the Nixon administration.

Mrs. Cody was a member of St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church in Bethesda and American Woman in Radio and Television.

Survivors include her husband, Thomas Cody of Bethesda; two children, Kathleen A. Cody and Joseph K. Cody, both of Bethesda; and two brothers.