Doris K. Beetem, 79, longtime top-selling area Realtor

January 30, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Doris Kessler Beetem, a fixture on the Baltimore real estate scene for nearly four decades, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. She was 79.

Mrs. Beetem, known professionally as Doris Kessler to several generations of local homebuyers, had a well-earned reputation as a top producer in the industry and for her kindness toward first-time homebuyers.

"It was like she had X-ray eyes, she could look at a person and relate them to a home in the marketplace," said Peggy Castle, a fellow Realtor and a friend of 35 years. "She was so respected because she was so honest."

At the time of her death, Mrs. Beetem was semiretired from Russell T. Baker & Co./Coldwell Banker.

It was after the death in 1961 of her first husband, Ralph E. Kessler, director of special education for Baltimore County public schools, that she became a real estate agent to support her four children.

She began working for Russell T. Baker & Co. in 1962 and was on the verge of quitting after a disappointing six months when Mr. Baker persuaded her to stick it out for another six months.

Persistence paid off. Mrs. Beetem became the top-producing sales associate for the company for 15 consecutive years in a career that averaged 40 home sales a year and sales figures in the millions of dollars.

"I suppose it was her good Scottish hard-headedness that made her a success. She was really our family's version of Horatio Alger," said a son, John E. Kessler, also a Realtor and a broker with Long & Foster Real Estate.

A petite, fashionably dressed woman known for her "flaming red hair," Mrs. Beetem was described by her family as easygoing and likable.

"She'd say, `Never sell a property that you wouldn't want back as a listing,' " said Mr. Kessler. "She also advised people, `You can do anything to a house but move it. Buy the best location that you can afford,' " he said.

In the field of customer service, Mrs. Beetem was legendary. It was not uncommon for her to arrange baby sitters for house-hunters or send Oriental rugs, paintings or furniture from her home to enhance a house she was trying to sell.

She also arranged social gatherings for buyers to meet their new neighbors.

Born Doris Ker in Waterbury, Conn., she was a 1939 graduate of Crosby High School and attended the Chandler School of Business in Boston. Her father was a partner in Grieve, Bisset & Holland, a department store.

She was married to Mr. Kessler in 1951. In 1971, she married Edward C. Beetem, a furniture manufacturer's representative, who died in 1989.

A member of the Baltimore Country Club and the Maryland Country Club, she enjoyed golfing, traveling, spending time at her home on Cape Cod and playing bridge. She also was a life member of the Real Estate Million Dollar Association and a board member and treasurer of Travel One, a travel agency.

A memorial service was held yesterday.

Other survivors include a another son, Bruce W. Kessler of Rodgers Forge; two daughters, Susan Kessler Gordon of Ijamsville and Diane K. Hewitt of Groton, Mass.; a brother, Robert W. Ker Jr. of New Canaan, Conn.; a niece whom she raised, Sarah S. Simmons of Darien, Conn.; seven grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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