Sunday, February 21, 2016

In Memorium: Harold Levey: (1925-Feb.8, 2016)

With great sadness we mourn the passing on February 8, of Harold D. Levey  in Baltimore County's Northwest Hospital due to complications from a fall several days earlier. Liked and admired by all who knew him, Harold could be considered the patriarch of Maryland mineral collectors, not only by virtue of his age, but by the breadth of his experience.

Locally, that experience dated from when Baltimore City's Jones Falls pegmatites were accessible and in Baltimore County, both the Bare Hills Copper Mine and the the Bare Hills Chrome Pits yielded rich specimens. He collected also at the McMahon and Texas Quarries in Baltimore County when they were known respectively as the Greenspring Quarry, and the Campbell Quarry. He spent a lot of time at the Fairfax Quarry in Centreville, Virginia, when its management actually permitted overnight camping. The Smithsonian once traded him an African mimetite specimen for a classic Centreville apophyllite on prehnite piece that it prominently exhibited for years.  Harold's local and regional collecting experience contributed to and was later enhanced in 1955 by a six month trip to numerous localities throughout the United States.

Natural history fascinated Harold from when he was a child. While looking for snakes at age 14, he extraneously uncovered the above pictured curved Tourmaline Group (var.) schorl  crystal in quartz. The experience led to his subsequent focus on mineralogy. Curiosity about the find prompted a visit to the Natural History Society of Maryland to seek out someone to identify the specimen. As a result, Harold donated it to the Society’s collection and became active as a member. When Charles Ostrander, NHSM’s  original mineral curator moved to Harford County around 1950 Harold became de facto curator.

It was during this period, when Paul Desautels, then a professor of chemistry at the Maryland State Teacher's College (now Towson State) showed up to view the NHSM collection. That visit led to the formation of the Baltimore Mineral Society. Along with  a small group including  Mr. Desautels and John S. White, both future Curators-in-Charge Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian,  Harold became a founding member and later  president. 
Harold continued to remain active with the NHSM late into the 1950’s.  NHSM then sponsored a Junior Natural History Society of Maryland. Throughout his life, Harold believed strongly that the best way to perpetuate the hobby of mineralogy was to have youngsters participate. He frequently led field trips for Junior NHSM members to a range of localities. They included visits in Carroll County to the Mineral Hill Mine, as well as a long built over cornfield loaded with quartz crystals near Gamber. He also led more distant trips to the dumps of the Cornwall Iron Mines in Lebanon County, PA, and the Showalter Quarry in Lancaster Co. PA. 

Like so many collectors Harold’s life during late middle age centered on family and work: wife Margie, their daughters Dana and Jodie, and a career as quality control manager for AAI Corporation at Hunt Valley in Baltimore County. Deeply saddened by Margie’s death in 1990, he became less active with mineralogy. However, his interest in minerals remained. He maintained his collection until 2013. That summer, failing health necessitated a move from his home near Pikesville to the nearby North Oaks Retirement Community. 

Further perspective on Harold Levey’s role and stature within the mineralogical community is available at the  Mineralogical Record label Archive: .