Betty Jean Farace, 68, cook in church rectories

March 07, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

When Betty Jean Farace cooked in the kitchens in rectories of Roman Catholic churches in Southwest Baltimore, good things were bound to happen.

Gallons of hearty soups. Delicious cakes and pies. A tasty meatloaf. Her own chutney -- which she pronounced chootney -- was a much sought-after condiment.

Mrs. Farace, whose cooking nourished priests in rectories from the now-closed Fourteen Holy Martyrs in West Baltimore to St. Jerome's at Hamburg and Scott streets, died of heart failure Tuesday in a hospital in Reston, Va. The longtime Woodyear Street resident was 68.

Mrs. Farace, who lived in a 100-year-old rowhouse, was a character who would have appealed to Charles Dickens.

Dressed in her trademark duster housecoat, a white apron and sandals, Mrs. Farace, who was lovingly called "Big Bet" by priests and seminarians, took charge of her surroundings like a mess sergeant.

With military efficiency she'd vacuum, scrub and polish rectories and then, in her husky voice, issue a challenge: "I've cleaned, and now I dare anyone to mess it up."

"She was big and broad," said the Rev. Michael J. Roach, former pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Southwest Baltimore. "Her hair was pulled back into a bun, and when she was in the kitchen waving a spatula, she was quite formidable. That was her territory, and she had no trouble in telling any unwelcome spectator to get out."

"She was bawdy, witty and blunt like the lusty wife of Bath from Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales,' " said Father Roach, who is pastor of St. Bartholomew's in Manchester. "Her evaluation of a handsome young priest was quick and to the point: 'Hubba-hubba.' "

Mrs. Farace began working in the early 1960s at Fourteen Holy Martyrs, then at St. Peter the Apostle, St. Benedict's, Ascension and St. Jerome's. She retired in 1991.

Much in demand, she sometimes would prepare lunch at one rectory and dinner at another.

"She was a natural cook," said a daughter, Sharon Gouldin, who shared the Woodyear Street rowhouse with her mother.

"She was a happy-go-lucky person who loved her work and the priests."

She was born Betty Jean Warwick in Highlandtown and graduated from Southern High School in 1946. Later that year, she married Samuel Farace, who died in 1965.

Mrs. Farace had two passions in life. One was mice -- she collected mice made of porcelain, metal or cloth and decorated her bedroom with them. The second was bagpipe music. She made her daughter and priest promise that when she died, a bagpiper would play the hymn "Amazing Grace" at the Mass.

The promise will be kept. A bagpiper will be at St. Peter the Apostle Church at 848 Hollins St., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered for Mrs. Farace at 11 a.m. today.

She is also survived by another daughter, Kimberly Brausen of Ashburn, Va.; and two grandsons, James C. Gouldin and Nicholas E. Gouldin, both of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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