Mary Baker Supplee, 106, health-group volunteer

Mary Baker Supplee
Mary Baker Supplee
Posted: February 18, 2013

Mary Baker Supplee, 106, a volunteer leader who could trace her lineage to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, died Wednesday, Feb. 13, at Dunwoody Village in Newtown Square.

Mrs. Supplee was the widow of Henderson Supplee Jr., past president and chairman of the former Atlantic Refining Co. He chaired the Federal Reserve Board of Philadelphia and was a charter trustee of Princeton University.

Mrs. Supplee's attention was focused chiefly on home, family, and garden, but her public role consisted of leading various volunteer efforts for health-based organizations.

Her son Henderson Supplee 3d, 83, said she lived for more than a century because she ate in moderation, exercised, and never smoked. "She took very good care of herself," he said.

Born in October 1906, Mrs. Supplee emerged into a world of the nascent balloon flight and Victrola player. The San Francisco earthquake that spring had killed 3,000 and left 225,000 homeless.

As the years passed, she came to represent "an elegant era, and a dignified and gracious style of living that barely exists today," her son said.

A native of Haverhill, Mass., Mrs. Supplee was the daughter of the Rev. William Osborn Baker and Elizabeth Jackson Baker. Her mother descended directly from Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Md., a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The family moved to a parish in New Haven, Conn., and vacationed in Bar Harbor, Maine, where her father was summer priest at St. Saviour's Episcopal Church, a building on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mrs. Supplee graduated from St. Mary's School in Peekskill, N.Y. She studied piano at the Yale School of Music until her marriage in 1928 to Henderson Supplee Jr.

The two moved to Haverford. Mrs. Supplee told family that she enjoyed the first years of marriage, when she would arise before dawn to help prepare her husband for a day of delivering Supplee-Wills-Jones Milk Co. dairy products by horse and wagon to customers in Norristown.

As a girl, Mrs. Supplee excelled as an athlete, a quality that served her well when she golfed at the Gulph Mills Golf Club. She was a member there for 70 years. She excelled at fly-fishing for trout and salmon; she and her husband searched the United States, Canada, and abroad for streams with cool, deep fishing holes.

She was a member of the Acorn Club of Philadelphia, a private organization of charitable, civic, intellectual, and social leaders of Philadelphia.

At various times, she chaired the Women's Committee for the Planned Parenthood Association and led the Women's Committee for the Babies' Hospital in Wynnefield, now St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

She was vice chairwoman of the United Community Campaign, now the United Way, and was appointed by Philadelphia Mayors Joseph S. Clark Jr. and Richardson Dilworth to the city's Board of Health.

She served as president of the Philadelphia Community Nursing Bureau and as trustee of the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr.

Mrs. Supplee and her husband moved to Radnor in the 1940s and raised four children there. He died in 1992.

A year later, she moved to Dunwoody Village, delighting other residents with her skill at designing and tending flower gardens to attract birds and butterflies. Her home and terrace were a showcase for prospective residents, her son said.

"She provided geraniums at her entry way and the main entry way" for years, her son said.

She loved early American antiques, the Phillies, and chocolate-colored French poodles.

Surviving, in addition to her son, are another son, Andrew R.; daughters Anne Carroll and Betty di Valmarana; six grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service at West Laurel Hill Cemetery is private. Donations may be made to the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia, 3300 Henry Ave., Suite 500, Philadelphia 19129.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook

at 215-854-2611 and bcook@phillynews.com.

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