Mary Lou died Tuesday of complications from a stroke. She was 83 and lived in Burholme, close enough to walk to the museum and library, which she did daily, rarely missing a day on the job.
She was married to Lawrence M. Campbell, onetime reporter for the former Evening Bulletin and the Inquirer and deputy city managing director in the administration of Frank L. Rizzo.
Mary obviously felt at home in the rarefied atmosphere of the Ryerss Museum and Library.
Rooms where luminaries of the 1800s, the wealthy and powerful merchants and government officials, gathered, are decorated with period furniture and carpeted as though awaiting the next visitor.
Above the fireplace in the parlor is a portrait of Joseph Waln Ryerss, scion of a wealthy Philadelphia textile empire, who built the mansion in 1859 and left it to the city in his will.
He and his wife, Mary Ann Reed, his longtime housekeeper (the marriage shocked Philadelphia society), traveled the world and brought back a wild assortment of knickknacks, bric-a-brac and souvenirs that include 12th-century Buddhas, ivory figurines, shells from the beaches of the world, pottery from the kilns of the Orient and similar artifacts.
The well-stocked library is available to the public, but only residents of Burholme can belong and take out books.
Joan Wagner, the former museum supervisor and head librarian, hired Mary Lou as assistant librarian. She became supervisor and librarian when Joan left.
"She was very caring, very intelligent," Joan said. "She made an excellent librarian because she was very good with people."
Mary Louise was born in Herndon, Va., to Byron and Phebe Thomas. She met her husband while employed in Washington in the Treasury Department. They married in 1949. They moved to Philadelphia when he took a job with the Inquirer, for which he worked until 1962. He then went to work for the Bulletin until 1971, when he joined the Rizzo administration.
Bob Campbell said that Mary's and her father's first meal together was Chinese, during which she learned to her distress how hot Chinese mustard can be.
Ironically, before she entered the hospital, her last meal was a Chinese egg roll.
"She loved Philadelphia," her son said. "She loved Ryerss Museum and she gave it all her effort."
Besides her husband and son, she is survived by two other sons, Alan, an editor in the Inquirer sports department, and Thomas; and five grandchildren.
Services: Will be private.