Gertrude T. Chase, 89, known in Walbrook, elsewhere as cook

March 08, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

3/8 TC Gertrude T. Chase was known as "Miss Gertie," the lady who baked pies, cakes and hot cross buns in her Northwest Baltimore home and kept the kitchen window open just enough to allow the aromas to waft through the neighborhood.

But Mrs. Chase, 89, who died Sunday of cancer at her home, was more than the dessert maker of Walbrook.

She was also the neighborhood matron who made sure that youngsters had their coats buttoned on chilly days, picked trash from the gutters and knew who did and didn't belong in the area.

"She was always someone who cared about people," said Agnes Stratton, a longtime friend. "She was into a little bit of everything that happened around here -- but always in a nice, decent way."

For the past 36 years, Mrs. Chase lived in the 2600 block of N. Hilton St., where her tall, slender figure with graying hair, large glasses, easy smile and her quick wit were familiar to neighbors.

But she was known mostly for her baked goods.

When home, Mrs. Chase spent most of her time in the kitchen, where she made goodies the old-fashioned way: from scratch, without recipes or notes, simply combining a pinch of this, a dab of that and some of the other stuff.

"But, oh my, could she bake," said Eleanor Middleton, her neighbor. "Whenever someone was sick she'd send over a pan of her rolls. People who were able to have some of her cooking were very fortunate."

The great-granddaughter of a slave, Mrs. Chase learned to cook from her mother, who learned from her mother and grandmother, said Mrs. Chase's daughter, Barbara L. Gray of Baltimore.

Born in Gloucester County, Va., Mrs. Chase moved to Baltimore in the late 1940s and was a machinist for the old Cat's Paw Rubber Co. in South Baltimore. In the 1950s, she became a cook at nearby Hilton Elementary School, then, in 1963, she became a domestic worker, with cooking as her primary duty. She retired in the late 1970s.

She enjoyed working at Hilton Elementary because she liked being with youngsters and baking large amounts of food for them.

"It made her feel special when the kids liked her," said Dorothy DeLoatch, a former co-worker.

She liked working for families and for many years worked for the family of Dr. Sheldon A. Friedlander in Randallstown and Reisterstown.

"I never saw her mad, and I never saw her upset," Dr. Friedlander said. "I do remember her cherry pies."

Once one of the children asked her to bake a cherry pie. She agreed, but said the youngster would have to fetch some cherries first.

"What it came to was she had to hoist him up on a neighbor's cherry tree to get the cherries," Ms. Gray said. "She had to hold him up there while he picked cherries and dropped them into her apron."

Dr. Friedlander also climbed the tree to fetch cherries. "Yes, I almost killed myself for one of her cherry pies," he said.

She was a lifetime member of the Order of Eastern Star Electra Chapter No. 1, the Knights of Pythias and Mount Street Senior Center.

The former Gertrude Thornton married John Chase in the 1950s. He died in 1972.

Services were held yesterday. In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a son, Joseph H. Gross of Las Vegas; another daughter, Lucille Elizabeth Thornton, a brother, Alfred Thornton Sr., and a sister, Helen Paige, all of Gloucester County; 14 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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