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(Enlarge) Christine Sarbanes listens during a local UNICEF board meeting in January 2005.

Christine Sarbanes, wife of former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, mother of U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a retired Gilman School teacher and chairwoman of the Baltimore chapter of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, died at her Guilford home Sunday night. She was 73 and had cancer.

Beyond being matriarch of one of Maryland’s best-known political families, Sarbanes was well known in her own right. In addition to her longtime work on behalf of UNICEF, the U.N. Children’s Fund, she was vice president of the Enoch Pratt Free Library System and a trustee of the Walters Art Museum.

She was also active in the Maryland Humanities Council and the Washington-based Society for the Preservation of Greek Heritage, as well as being on the board of the University of Maryland Medical School.

She headed UNICEF’s Baltimore Volunteer Group from offices in Brown Memorial Woodbrook Presbyterian Church on North Charles Street, where she and 25 volunteers rushed to raise money to help children affected by the Indonesian tsunami in 2006.

In 2008, Sarbanes won the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work with the UNICEF board.
She helped launch UNICEF’s annual flagship report, State of the World’s Children, at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

She was also active in area schools, where she tried to teach children the importance of UNICEF and helping other children in need.

In a 2006 interview with the Messenger, she called attention to the plight of people in Asia, where the tsunami killed 150,000, many of them children. Many more were orphaned and starving.

The London-born Sarbanes, who was educated at Oxford University, had been married to Paul Sarbanes since 1960. She once told The Baltimore Sun that they had bought their house because it was within walking distance of the Waverly library.
“There’s a sense in the building of sadness today,” library director Carla Hayden said Monday. “She was very important to this institution and was really the force behind a lot of our community outreach efforts.”

Sarbanes not only supported Pratt programs, but attended many of them, including awards ceremonies for staff members, Hayden said. She said Sarbanes considered libraries as symbolizing the equality she wanted for society.

Jo Marvan, of Towson, who met Sarbanes at UNICEF in 2001, quickly became friends with her, partly because Marvan is also from England.

Marvan remembered Sarbanes as “tireless,” and “a precious person. She had a very high standing in society here, but she was everybody’s friend.”

Sarbanes was closely tied to north Baltimore, as a Guilford resident and as a member of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation on University Parkway.

At Gilman, she taught French, Latin and Greek in the upper school from 1978 until about 2000, said Lillian Burgunder, of Tuscany-Canterbury, who taught Spanish and art history at Gilman.

Sarbanes instilled honor and fairness as virtues in her students and took pains to make sure “they were really getting the material,” said Burgunder, who is retired.

She also helped pave the way for women teachers at a time when there were few in the upper school, Burgunder said.

“She was a wonderful colleague.”

In addition to her husband and her son, Sarbanes is survived by a daughter, Janet Sarbanes, a Bryn Mawr School graduate and a writer and college teacher living in Los Angeles, and another son, Michael Sarbanes, a community activist who ran unsuccessfully for Baltimore City Council president.

A memorial service is planned for April 3 at 5 p.m. at the Enoch Pratt Central Library, 400 Cathedral St.

In lieu of flowers, the family has established the Christine D. Sarbanes Memorial Fund at the Pratt.

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