Rhea Wolf Offit, 92, Northwest movie theaters owner

December 31, 1997|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Rhea Wolf Offit, a former owner of Northwest Baltimore motion picture houses who had been president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Levindale Home for the Aged, died of heart failure Monday at her Pikesville home. She was 92.

Mrs. Offit, born in Baltimore, also was an officer of Charter Realty, a firm that owned and leased commercial properties in the heart of the Park Heights Avenue business district near Pimlico Race Course.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she managed the financial operations of the Pimlico, Uptown and Avalon theaters and booked family films for their screens. The family also built and operated the Pikes theater in Pikesville.

Her father and uncle built the old Pimlico movie theater in 1914. The Avalon lent its name to the 1990 Barry Levinson film shot and set in Baltimore.

"She grew up in the neighborhood and at the age of 14 drove the back roads of Pimlico," said her son, Morris W. Offit of New York, former chairman of the Johns Hopkins University board of trustees.

A graduate of Western High School, Mrs. Offit grew up in the retail environment of her father's neighborhood general store on Park Heights Avenue and the stylish dress salon her aunt, Baltimore couturiere Jeannette Beck, ran on Charles Street near the Hotel Belvedere.

As a young woman, she became a buyer for the Hochschild Kohn department store and retained a lifelong interest in women's fashion. She read Women's Wear Daily until her death.

"She had one frustration in her life -- that she didn't buy the Jeannette Beck store and keep it open," her son said.

In 1930, Rhea Wolf married Michael Offit, an owner of Aetna Shirt Co. at Pratt and Paca streets. He died in 1970.

Mrs. Offit was a well-known social figure in Northwest Baltimore and attended many charity and philanthropic events. She also played cards and games of mah-jongg with longtime family friends.

She was president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Levindale Home for the Aged and was a founder of Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Ave., where services will be held at 11 a.m. today.

Also surviving are a daughter, Sara O. Abeshouse of Baltimore; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Michael Offit Scholarship Fund, in care of Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore 21208.

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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