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February 16, 1943 ~ July 16, 2023 (age 80) 80 Years Old
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A fierce believer that working for the public good is not only our responsibility as humans but also defines a life well lived, Mary Reardon, descendant of an Irish Catholic coal mining family from Pennsylvania, died on July 16, 2023.
Born February 16, 1943 and raised in Baltimore, Mary moved to Silver Spring, MD in the early 1980s, where she launched her lifelong work for social justice and working class issues. She was a passionate civic and political organizer, advocating for historic preservation, sensible development to maintain affordable housing and neighborhoods, and fairness for workers. For decades, she conducted grassroots volunteer work for various political campaigns on local and state levels in Maryland.
Simultaneously, Mary pursued a three-decade professional public service career in media relations in Washington, DC, where she worked as an Editor and Public Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Colleagues at USDA’s Economic Research Service recall that “Mary made accessible the work of economists who couldn’t write their way out a paper bag, much to the delight of colleagues and readers, including Members of Congress. She had extremely high standards, an eagle eye, and an unsurpassed sense of fairness.”
Throughout her life, Mary approached every project that she undertook – civic or historic, professional or volunteer - with high standards, unwavering dedication and an unrivaled sense of responsibility. The most visible fruits of Mary’s labors are in downtown Silver Spring, home to numerous historic buildings that she and Judy Reardon -- her sister and life-long collaborator -- played key roles in preserving. Working in such groups as Citizens to Preserve Old Silver Spring, the Silver Spring /Takoma Park Traffic Coalition and Silver Spring Historical Society, and collaborating with the Art Deco Society, Montgomery Preservation and more, Mary and Judy Reardon saved parts of downtown Silver Spring’s human-scale, historic streetscapes from demolition for massive shopping malls and oversized development. Today, the buildings they fought to save from wrecking balls and hoped to repurpose are some of downtown Silver Spring’s most significant public attractions as well as architectural gems. They include the Silver Theatre (American Film Institute/AFI) and Shopping Center, Hecht’s Building (Ellsworth Place mall), Canada Dry Building (condominiums), and Silver Spring Train Station (museum and public venue).
Mary’s architectural, historic and social justice interests converged in her work to obtain designation for architecturally significant garden apartment complexes and to preserve affordable “missing middle” housing in downtown Silver Spring. Thanks to her labors, Montgomery Arms Apartments, Spring Gardens Apartments, and part of the premier Falklands Apartments received historic designation. Most recently, among other projects, Mary was working to preserve the historic Blair family mansion in Jesup Blair Park, advocating for its adaptive reuse by arts and humanities nonprofits. At the time of her death, she served as Vice President of Montgomery Preservation Inc. and as Preservation Chair of the Silver Spring Historical Society, of which she was a founding member.
Mary J. Reardon died from esophageal cancer in Washington, DC. She is predeceased by her sole sibling, sister Judy A. Reardon (1944-2004), and her parents, James Thomas Reardon (1906-1970) and Veronica (Vera) M. Joyce (1910-1978). Her parents had left Northumberland County, PA after marrying in 1941, raising their family in Baltimore, MD while her father commuted to work at the US Department of Labor in Washington, DC. Mary earned a BA in History at Baltimore’s Notre Dame of Maryland University, and graduate credits in History and Demography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mary is mourned by numerous friends, neighbors and colleagues who shared her avid interest in DC’s live music scene or her appreciation for a wide range of musicians, from blues to rockabilly to folk. Her passion for historic preservation and social justice inspired everyone she met. Mary demonstrated each day how to live a life of purpose.
Donations in Mary Reardon’s memory may be made to the Silver Spring Historical Society, PO Box 1160, Silver Spring, MD 20910 or to Montgomery Preservation Inc. (MPI), PO Box 4661, Rockville, MD 20849-4661