Helen Monnett Gilner, 94, former legal secretary

December 31, 1998|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Helen Monnett Gilner, a former legal secretary, died Dec. 24 of heart failure at St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Southwest Baltimore.

She was 94 and formerly lived on Stonecroft Road near Irvington.

Mrs. Gilner was a lifelong Baltimorean and would tell family stories of her youth in Druid Hill Park and of Sundays spent on its boat lake. Before the harbor was redeveloped, she often packed a lunch, took a bus downtown and watched boats in the docks from a park bench.

While viewing the city skyline from the St. Elizabeth center, she ,, said to a daughter, "Doesn't it make you so proud?"

The former Helen Monnett was born on South Baltimore's Barre Street and as a child moved to the Patterson Park section of East Baltimore. She attended city public schools and walked from Patterson Park to the old Eastern High School at Broadway and North Avenue.

Beginning in the early 1920s, she worked for about 40 years as a legal secretary at several prominent Baltimore law firms, including Armstrong, Machen and Allen; Hershey, Donaldson, Williams and Stanley; and Ober, Williams and Grimes.

After she retired, she volunteered for many years at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland.

In 1931, she married Bernard Riley Gilner, a photo engraver for the old Washington Times Herald. He died in 1961.

Although she did not complete high school, Mrs. Gilner was a voluminous reader and letter writer -- over the decades she checked out thousands of books from the Edmondson Village branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

"My mother was one of the most well-read persons I've ever met," said a daughter, Elizabeth Bobo of Columbia. Mrs. Bobo is a former Howard County executive and represents Howard County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Mrs. Gilner was fond of the works of Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov. When he died, she wrote a note of sympathy to his widow and received a reply from her.

She wrote occasional letters to the editor of The Sun to clarify fine points of local history. Her manuscript history of the Monnett family of Calvert County, where her ancestors settled, is on file at the Maryland Historical Society.

Mrs. Gilner was an opera fan and once wrote to the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, advising him to cut down his eating and take better care of himself. In this case, she received no reply.

She enjoyed attending plays at Center Stage and performances by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Monday.

She is survived by two other daughters, H. Martha Gilner of Baltimore and Mary T. Keyes of Arbutus; and nine grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/31/98

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