Elizabeth Serre Townsend, 101, of Wilmington, Del. and New Harbor, died on March 15. She was born in Philadelphia in 1914 to Charles and Antoinette Serre Townsend. Elizabeth spent her early years in Drexel Hill, Penn. and was a graduate of Upper Darby High School. She continued her education and earned a Bachelor of Science in Education (1935) and a Master of Social Work (1938) from the University of Pennsylvania where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta.
Following working for Sleighton Farm School for Girls in Pennsylvania, Miss Townsend came to Wilmington in 1939 and became a case worker for The Children’s Bureau of Delaware, a voluntary child welfare agency providing protective services, foster care and adoption services for children. She was appointed executive director in 1948 and retired in 1979.
In 1951, Miss Townsend, a strong and active advocate for the rights and needed services for children, was instrumental in securing the enactment of two outstanding laws in Delaware Legislature relating to the adoption of children. These laws required the termination of parental rights in order for children to be placed for adoption with non-relatives and required that only licensed child care agencies could place children for adoption. Both statutes were the first enacted by any state, giving Delaware national recognition.
Miss Townsend also served on maNy local, state and national organizations, boards and committees including: Delaware YMCA Board of Directors, Episcopal Church Home Foundation of Delaware, Citizen Alliance for Public Education, Delaware Council of Agencies on Children and Youth, Child Welfare League of America, Wilmington Child Guidance Center, Advisory Council of Executives of Child Welfare League of America and Chairman of the Child Welfare League of America Committee to write standards for adoption practices.
Following retirement, Miss Townsend was one of the founders and president of the Board of Directors of the National Adoption Center in Philadelphia. She was listed in “Who’s Who of Women” in 1973. She was a member of the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew in Wilmington, Del. and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Newcastle.
Miss Townsend and her friend, Nancy Ware, owned a home in New Harbor since 1965, spending some time there, in the spring, summer or fall each year. In Maine, Miss Townsend enjoyed and cherished not only the beauty of her surroundings, but particularly the many close friends she made over the years. She was a Maine enthusiast from her earliest visits in the 1950s.
In addition to her parents, she is also predeceased by her sister, Marguerite T. Kelsey; brother, John Crocker Townsend; sister-in-law, Ann H. Townsend; and friend, Nancy Ware.
She is survived by her sister-in-law, Ruth Townsend of Northbrook, Ill.; nephews, Charles H. Townsend and wife Jill of Rowayton, Conn., William H. Townsend and wife Nora of Atlanta, Ga., and Bruce T. Kelsey and wife Diane Necastro of Hockessin, Del.; niece, Susan L. Townsend of Beaufort, S.C.; grand-nieces, Christina Jones, Katharine Simpson, Sarah Townsend, Mira Kelsey and Elizabeth Townsend; great-grandnieces, Lucy Jones, Elizabeth Simpson and Josephine Townsend; great-grandnephews, Samuel Jones, Carter Simpson, and Abraham Kahn; and extended family members, Joanne Shakley and Gilda Kelsey.
A memorial service will be held at 12 p.m., Sat., April 2 at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, 719 N. Shipley St., Wilmington, DE 19801.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Carpenter’s Boat Shop, 440 Old Country Rd., Pemaquid, ME 04558; or St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 11 Glidden St., Newcastle, ME 04553.
For online condolences please visit chandlerfuneralhome.com, 302-478-7100.