Loretta Jean Skibbe, 67, Poet Laureate of Baltimore

November 02, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Loretta Jean Skibbe, former Baltimore Poet Laureate who was an internationally recognized poet and writer, died Sunday of cancer at a hospital in Naples, Fla. The former Towson resident was 67.

Mrs. Skibbe, who had lived in Marco Island, Fla., for the past five years, was honored as the International Woman of 1975 with Laureate Honors in connection with the International Women's Year.

She received the honor, given by Imelda Marcos and presented by then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer, for her role in modern society and her ability to lead the life of a woman, wife, mother and professional woman.

She was a member of the United Poets Laureate International and the World Congress of Poets Movement. In 1976, she was responsible for bringing the World Congress of Poets convention to Baltimore.

Mrs. Skibbe's poetry often was about the travails and frustrations of modern life and sometimes reflected her political convictions.

"She was flamboyant, very dramatic and was highly active in the great theater of life, and her poetry was like that," said her daughter, Holly Dale Seward of Greenfield, Mass.

"Her poetry was delightful. It was a little bit of homespun and represented a good cross-section of her thoughts and her marvelous sense of humor," said Connie Farris, a friend in Marco Island.

Elsie Hendricks, who worked with Mrs. Skibbe on former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley's staff and lives in Marco Island, said, "She was so witty and always saw the good in people. Even in her final illness, she kept trying to see the positive side of things. She was remarkable."

Mrs. Bentley, now a consultant to the Port of Baltimore, said, "She had a lot of inner strength that people didn't realize.

She was very loyal and meticulous and used to drive me crazy because she washed her hands 1,000 times a day," said Mrs. Bentley with a laugh.

Despite her illness, Mrs. Skibbe, who loved dancing, managed to dance the night away one last time three weeks before her death.

She planned her funeral and engraved tombstone in great detail.

"They're pretty stuffy over there at the cemetery," said Mrs. Hendricks, "but she convinced cemetery officials to have her stone read: 'Born: November 18, 1927 and Now Immortal,' with no death date included."

The tombstone offers one of her poems:

I fear my epitaph will read/ Neat and clean was her finest deed/Or another that would tell/ Here she lies/She dusted well.

She was born Loretta J. Vlchek, in Norwood Park, Ill., and graduated from area schools. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and studied drama at Northwestern University.

She was a television editor for the Chicago Daily News before marrying William A. Skibbe, vice president and general manager of W. R. Grace, Davison Chemical Ltd., in 1952.

The couple moved to Phoenix, Baltimore County, in 1957 and later settled in Towson.

For several years she operated a public relations firm, Chez Promotion. Mr. Skibbe died in the mid-1970s.

Services for Mrs. Skibbe are planned today in Marco Island.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, William C. Skibbe of Virginia Beach, Va.; a brother, Joseph Vlchek of Chicago; and eight grandchildren.

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