Published in The Washington Post on Feb. 12, 2019
MAE ZABILSKY SCANLAN
Mae Zabilsky Scanlan, writer, photographer, and longtime
Washington resident who was once called "one of
America's funniest poets," died February 5, 2019 at
Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park of
complications following surgery for pancreatic cancer. She
Born in Baltimore, MD, Mrs. Scanlan, whose father was an officer in the United States Navy,
spent her childhood in cities with a strong naval presence, including Boston, MA.; Charleston,
SC; and New London, Conn. She moved permanently to Washington, DC, in 1948 and lived
in the city for 70 years. She graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1949. She
attended The George Washington University and received an A.B. in journalism in 1953.
Mrs. Scanlan began her career at Navy Times, where she co-wrote a humor column for ten
years, "Limerick Liner." She was also a songwriter, and published at this time "No
Survivors." Mrs. Scanlan was for many years a freelance photographer. Her photographs,
many depicting scenes in Washington, DC, and New England, have appeared in magazines,
books, calendars, brochures, and trade publications, and on posters. She was co-author of
Beautiful America's Washington, DC (1988).
In the late 1970s and 1980s, Mrs. Scanlan worked as an assistant at American University, in
what was then the Department of Criminal Justice.
Mrs. Scanlan was probably best known for humorous verse. She was a widely published
humorous verse poet whose work appeared in Lighten Up Online, Literary Review, The
Spectator, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, among others. She published often in the
journal Light, whose editor, Melissa Balmain, called her "one of the wittiest poets ever born."
In recent years, Mrs. Scanlan became well known to readers of the Washington Post's Style
Invitational, where she earned "334 blots of Invite ink since 1995," as Pat Myers, the editor of
the Style Invitational, wrote in an appreciation.
A piano player, Mrs. Scanlan played monthly at Friday afternoon happy hours for 24 years at
Fernwood Nursing Home in Bethesda, Md., now Manor Care. She also wrote songs for the
Old Time Music Hall, run by the British Players of Kensington, MD.
She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Tom Scanlan, a longtime Washington resident,
former editor of Federal Times, and jazz critic, now of Silver Spring; her son, John Scanlan,
of Cambridge, MA.; her daughter, Mary Pershing, of Springfield; her sister, Frances Ogg, of
Silver Spring; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will take place on Saturday, March 2, at 11 a.m., at Emmanuel Lutheran
Church, 7730 Bradley Blvd., Bethesda, MD.
Committal of ashes will take place at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to the charity of your choice.
Religious Service Information
Emmanuel Lutheran Church
7730 Bradley Blvd
Bethesda, MD 20817