CLARKSVILLE – Colleen and Erin Marlatt were inseparable – so much so that they died together, victims of the tornado that ripped through the University of Maryland, College Park and across parts of Prince George’s County Monday evening.
The sisters were outgoing and motivated, family and friends said.
Colleen, 23, was to graduate in December with a double degree in communications and environmental policy. Erin, a 20-year-old sophomore, had just returned to classes this semester after recovering from a neurosurgical procedure in January.
“Colleen is a wonderful example of how undergraduate students can and do connect to UM’s research mission,” said Andrew Wolvin, a communications professor who worked closely with her on several research analysis teams. “She was a very dynamic person and a brilliant scholar. Ironically, we had an appointment today to talk about her future as a research analyst.”
Erin overcame the January surgery to remove a benign tumor behind her ear and was eager to get back to school.
“She was excited about being in class and wanted to get a lot out of her education,” said Sharon Baxter, a sociology professor who had Erin in class this semester. “I was hoping against all hope that I misunderstood the name when I heard it on the radio this morning.”
The sisters, who commuted to campus from their Clarksville home, had just visited their father at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute when they tried to beat the approaching storm at about 5 p.m.
F. Patrick Marlatt, is deputy director there. He also was injured when the institute’s temporary headquarters was demolished by the twister.
The girls’ 1992 Mercury Sable stood no chance against the more than 150 mile-per-hour winds, which carried the car 200 to 300 yards before coming to rest in trees near a parking lot, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County fire department.
Colleen had an internship in Annapolis this semester, while working with Professor Wolvin on a study of communication management in the 21st century.
Last year, she received the James I. Brown Research Award from the Institute for the Study of Intrapersonal Processes for her study, “Music Therapy for Persons with Senile Dementia: Do We Really Understand the Depth of Appreciative Listening?”
“Everyone was impressed with her,” said Wolvin, about the presentation she gave in Chicago at the International Listening Association Conference. “People thought she was a Ph.D. student.”
“They were just wonderful girls who cared very deeply about each other,” said Dr. Cliff Turen, a family friend. “They enjoyed going to the beach, being around the family and doing all the other things sisters do together.”
The family is very active with St. Louis Church in Clarksville, where the girls’ mother, Patricia, used to teach. F. Patrick Marlatt is the chief of Howard County’s Fifth District Fire Department, in Clarksville, where the family is also very involved in community events.
The girls’ mother told the Associated Press that the sisters were “just the most wonderful, talented, beautiful girls. Religious girls. Great friends, great daughters, true ladies.”
St. Louis Church has set up the Colleen and Erin Marlatt Scholarship Fund to help support the family. The sisters graduated from Notre Dame Prep in Dulaney Valley and leave behind their mother and father, and 26-year-old brother, Michael.
The funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Louis Church in Clarksville.
– 30 – CNS 09-25-01