Doris Zemanick, 80, school secretary in Balto. County

October 22, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Doris F. Zemanick, a retired Baltimore County public school secretary and lifelong Oella resident, died at home Saturday of emphysema and lung cancer. She was 80.

Mrs. Zemanick was born and lived her entire life in the log-and-shingle house on Oella Avenue that was purchased by her grandparents in 1870.

She told endless stories about growing up in the picturesque textile mill community on the shores of the Patapsco River.

"She loved talking about Oella in the old days and especially liked to recall riding in her grandfather's horse-drawn sleigh on winter nights, summer trips aboard the Tolchester steamers for a day's outing and swimming in a favorite Patapsco River swimming hole," said her daughter, Deborah Doyle of Ellicott City.

"She talked about the annual Fourth of July picnics when families took baskets of fried chicken and pies to Dickey Field. The men played baseball in the afternoon and the event was preserved in an annual group photograph," the daughter said.

The former Doris Frances Gordon was a graduate of Catonsville High School and Strayer's Business College. She was a legal secretary for several years until marrying Frank J. Zemanick in 1942 and becoming a homemaker. He died last year.

In 1962, after her children were grown, she became secretary to the principal of the old Westchester Elementary School on Westchester Avenue in Oella, which she had attended as a child.

"She was not just a secretary but also a bookkeeper, gal Friday, social director for the staff and friend to the students," said Mrs. Doyle.

"She had the wonderful ability [of] being able to communicate with all types of people and on all levels. She could assuage a pouty first-grader one moment, settle things with a frantic custodian and, in the next instant, usher a pressured superintendent of schools into her office, and all would emerge smiling," she said.

Said William M. Beckwith, a retired principal of the school: "Secretaries are the center of a school, and she was no exception. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was most efficient and cooperative."

So ubiquitous was Mrs. Zemanick that people were surprised to learn she wasn't the principal. She retired in 1982.

"Years later, she was still recognized by adults who would approach her in the grocery store and say, 'Hey, Mrs. Zemanick, thanks for lending me lunch money,' or, 'I'm the one you were so nice to every time I got into trouble with the principal,' " Mrs. Doyle said.

Mrs. Zemanick enjoyed interior decorating and collecting antiques. Her front porch was decorated with flowers grown in her husband's greenhouse and with antique wicker furniture, and was considered a local landmark, said family members.

Mrs. Zemanick was a communicant of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, 4795 Ilchester Road, Ilchester, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her son, Michael Zemanick of Ellicott City; a sister, Ethel Tucker of Washington; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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