The Rev. Theodora J. "Dora" McLean, a registered nurse who was a founder and associate pastor of Christian Unity Temple Christian Community Church, died July 22 at Sinai Hospital of complications from a stroke.
The Halethorpe resident was 82.
The daughter of a blacksmith and a homemaker, she was born Theodora J. Jackson, one of 10 children in the family, in Nelson County, Va., where she was raised and graduated in 1950 from Nelson County High School.
She moved to Baltimore and in 1950 married Joseph Lee McLean Sr., who worked at Eastern Stainless Steel Co.
Mrs. McLean and her husband were members of Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church of Baltimore and were founding members with an older sister, the late Rev. Maude H. Coleman, of Christian Unity Temple in 1966.
Mrs. McLean was ordained by Christian Unity Temple and the United Council of Christian Community Churches of Maryland and Vicinity. In 1993, she earned a bachelor's degree in theology from New Hope Bible Crusade College and Seminary in Baltimore.
Mrs. McLean was elected secretary of the church in 1966 and retained the position until her death. Her husband, an original trustee and chairman of the deacon board, held those positions until his death in 1985.
Christian Unity Temple, a nondenominational church in Northwest Baltimore, changed its name after joining the United Council of Christian Community Churches of Maryland and Vicinity to Christian Unity Temple Christian Community Church Inc.
"From childhood, Theodora was always a caring and compassionate person, always doing everything she could to help others. She was the most caring person I've ever known," said a sister, Florine J. Robinson-Amin, assistant pastor at Christian Unity Temple Christian Community Church Inc.
"She was always an ardent worker and supporter of the church. No job was ever too menial for her to perform," said Mrs. Robinson-Amin. "She worked in the kitchen cooking and serving meals. She sang in the choir, headed the nurses' unit and kitchen committee."
Mrs. McLean, who was the food service manager at the church, was licensed by the state to manage and operate a commercial kitchen, family members said.
"Whenever the kitchen was open at church, she was the first to arrive and the last to leave. She was a stickler for seeing that everything was clean and sanitized and that food was properly stored and handled according to Health Department guidelines," her sister said.
"She visited and brought Communion to the sick, did grocery shopping, and transported parishioners and others to worship services and consistently gave of her time and money without ever seeking or wanting recognition or reward."
The Rev. Howard E. Jackson, the church's pastor and the brother of Mrs. McLean, lives in Govans.
"She'd set up the Communion table, take Communion to the sick and filled in wherever needed," said Mr. Jackson. "The church was very much a big part of her life."
Mrs. McLean brought her energy to the pulpit when she preached.
"We had been raised in the Baptist Church in our childhood, so she took a more apostolic and emotional approach when delivering the message," said Mr. Jackson.
"She was an extremely animated speaker," her sister said.
Mrs. McLean's ubiquitous presence at the church earned her the sobriquet of "The Fireball of Christian Unity Temple Christian Community Church," Mrs. Robinson-Amin said with a laugh.
"She seemingly had boundless energy and could work circles around people a generation younger than she was," her sister said.
In addition to her church work, Mrs. McLean had been a nurse for more than 60 years, beginning in 1950 as a licensed practical nurse.
Mrs. McLean, who spent years as a psychiatric nurse, worked at Springfield, Spring Grove and Rosewood state hospitals. She had earned a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1981 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
She was working as a nurse for Catholic Charities when she retired in 2000, but was still volunteering at St. Elizabeth's School on Argonne Drive and St. Ann's School on Greenmount Avenue at her death.
Mrs. McLean was an active member of the Clayton Memorial Chapter 31 of the Order of the Eastern Star.
She enjoyed entertaining family and friends and cooking.
"You could never go to her house that she didn't want to feed you," her sister said.
She and her husband maintained fruit trees and were avid vegetable gardeners. They managed to keep neighbors and family members supplied with fresh produce during the summer months.
Mrs. McLean also enjoyed attending the theater and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts, and visiting beaches.
"Essentially, her hobbies were the church and her work," Mrs. Robinson-Amin said.
Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday at her church, 3900 Groveland Ave.
Also surviving are a son, Joseph Lee McLean Jr. of Monument, Colo.; another sister, Eunice Chatman of New Jersey; and two grandchildren.