Cathryne Phifer, 77, Baltimore social worker

June 26, 1999|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Cathryne Elizabeth Phifer, a retired social worker and foster care advocate, died of undetermined causes Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The North Bentalou Street resident was 77.

During a 30-year career with the city's Department of Social Services, Mrs. Phifer worked with generations of children and their foster parents.

Dressed for work in tailored clothes, she stood 4 feet, 8 inches tall, but her energy and firmness made her seem taller.

"She always had a beaming smile," said Ernest Terry, a Pikeville resident and former city social worker. "That smile helped her to communicate with clients. There was never an adversarial tone."

Born in Salisbury, N.C., the former Cathryne Graves was a graduate of J. C. Price High School and Livingstone College, also in Salisbury. She joined Baltimore's old Department of Public Welfare in late 1954 and was assigned to the children's division.

In 1978, she was given a testimonial dinner downtown. Friends attending the event recalled days when Mrs. Phifer would leave home at 6 a.m. to pick up a child from a residential school to make a court appearance with the youngster.

"That little woman can outwork any man," declared a program for the testimonial.

In 1962, she established the Foster Parent Club support group. She also worked in the training division of the Department of Social Services, teaching newcomers the basics of the profession. She retired in 1984.

Mrs. Phifer, who enjoyed traveling and reading romance novels, was a member of VFW Ladies Auxiliary Post 4438 in Turners Station and a college alumni club associated with her alma mater.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Nutter Funeral Home, 2501 Gwynns Falls Parkway.

Mrs. Phifer is survived by her husband of 53 years, Sidney E. Phifer; a daughter, Jacqueline M. Terry of Tulsa, Okla.; a sister, Lucille Barnum of Columbia; two brothers, Robert Graves and William Graves, both of Greensboro, N.C.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 6/26/99

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