Articles‎ > ‎

College Park Patch (Evans) Main Article

Michelle Humanick: A ‘Nurturing’ Soul With a Love of Cooking, Family and Community

The 44-year-old was one of four in the Mid-Atlantic who died in Sunday’s storm.

By Lauren Evans | July 30, 2010
(c) 2010 College Park Patch

When it came to the things that mattered to her, Michelle Humanick was not content to settle for "good enough."

When her house was robbed, she didn't just call the police. She started a Neighborhood Watch.

When she and her husband, Clay Gump, adopted their first daughter, she didn't pop open a can of baby food. She made it by hand, chopping up vegetables, pureeing them, and arranging them in ice cube trays.

She even liked making her own marshmallows, a venture that Gump initially found silly until he tried - and loved- them. After that, Humanick made them as gifts for friends, forming marshmallow letters and spelling out their names.

"She just loved people," said longtime friend and neighbor Pam Lever. "She loved to help out, she loved to make sure that her community was well-served, and that people were safe. She looked out for the betterment of people, and herself and her family."

Humanick, 44, was driving on the Beltway Sunday afternoon with her mother-in-law, Sue Lantz, in the passenger seat of Humanick's minivan, when the sudden onset of that afternoon's storm convinced her to take the nearest exit, Gump said. She was headed South on Rhode Island to take refuge at nearby REI when powerful winds caused a tree to snap, crushing the hood of her car and killing her instantly.

Lantz, 64, who was hospitalized with facial lacerations, was released from the hospital Monday.

Humanick, who grew up in Pennsville, New Jersey, had a number of interests. For one, she loved to cook. She regularly did so for family and friends, but also for SOME (So Others Might Eat), a D.C.-based organization dedicated to helping poor and homeless people in the area. 

"My favorite memory with her is just standing with her in her kitchen, watching her cook," Lever said. "She was always making something delicious."

When it came to ingredients, Humanick preferred to buy her vegetables locally, and was frequently spotted around the area's various Farmer's Markets. What she enjoyed even more, Gump said, was growing the vegetables herself.

"I think the gardening thing was sort of an extension of her cooking, because nothing was better," he said. "And she'd say, 'OK! We're making this, and the onions are from just today! And the zucchini is from today!' She loved saying that, 'This, this and this' came from our garden. She just got the biggest kick out of it."

Gump posits that Humanick's love of gardening stems from her care-giving tendencies.

"It's just the nurturing thing," he said. She just really loved to nurture that garden and watch it grow."

Which is one of the reasons why it was so important to her that she have children. Though she was unable to have any of her own, becoming a mother was a major priority in Humanick's life. She and Gump adopted their first daughter Sophie, now 4, in 2006 and their second, Amelia, 1, last year. Since that day, her children always came first. 

Eric Olson, the Prince George's County Councilman representing College Park, said this love of her family was obvious to anyone who met Humanick.

"She was just someone who really cared deeply about her family, and about her kids," he said. 

A natural extension of her concern for her kids was caring about the community in which they would grow up. Aside from starting the Neighborhood Watch, she was also a fixture at College Park Nursery School, which her daughters attended. Gump said that their commitment to College Park began in 1990, when they bought a house in the Yarrow neighborhood. Both Humanick and Gump became active community members, wanting to see College Park become a place where their future children could bike to the movies.

"When we moved in, we said, 'Well, let's see what we can do to try and improve things,'" Gump said. "Let's put down roots and see what we can do."

But Gump emphasizes that Humanicks's role in the community was never exceptionally formal. She never ran for office, he said, and probably wouldn't have considered herself an activist. What she did do was care enormously for other people.

City council member Stephanie Stullich (District 3) first met Humanick when she was campaigning door-to-door. Stullich knew Gump through other city activities, but he wasn't home the day Stullich knocked on their front door. Humanick let her in, and the two talked for hours.

"Michelle was just one of those people you feel an instant connection with," Stullich said. "And you know, from the first time I met her, I felt like she was a good friend. She just had a way of making you feel really comfortable. It was really hard to leave."

But Humanick's commitment to her community and the people in it was never borne of obligation. It was simply what made her happy. Quality of life was always very important to both Humanick and Gump, and served as the basis for many of their life-decisions. In 1995, with encouragement from Gump, Humanick left a lucrative career in retail to go back to school, graduating from the University of Maryland with degrees in art history and archeology.

"At the time it was a tough decision," Gump said, "But we've always sort of subscribed to the idea that it's better to be happy. You've got to be happy with what you do."

And Humanick was. When asked how she did it, how she cared so much about so many things, Gump replied that it was a simple matter of prioritizing.

"She just tried to focus on the things that were important. She tried not to worry about the things that weren't so important."