Marie Miklasz, 93, owner of lively Severn store

March 09, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

For more than 50 years, Marie H. Miklasz ran a combination Severn general store, filling station, post office, liquor store, barber shop and crab shack that was a hangout for a collection of locals that ranged from idlers to rural philosophers who could be counted on for opinions on just about anything.

Mrs. Miklasz, who owned and operated J & M Miklasz General Store, died Saturday of heart failure at North Arundel Hospital. She was 93.

In 1944, Mrs. Miklasz and her husband, Joseph F. Miklasz, whom she married in 1928, sold their grocery at Gough and Chester streets in East Baltimore and bought the old country store that had been a fixture on Severn Station Road in northern Anne Arundel County since the early 1900s.

After her husband's death in 1978, Mrs. Miklasz, who was known as "Miss Mamie" or "Mom," continued to operate the store, retiring when she turned 90. The business is still owned and operated by the family. The store, a white clapboard building with green trim and a wide, hospitable front porch, offered a variety of goods, including canned products, custom-cut meat, fresh eggs, local produce and feed. In front were two gasoline pumps, one dispensing Sinclair, the other Beth-O-Lene.

"To the left of the store was the post office where folks came for their mail, and on the right was a small room with a single barber's chair. We lived upstairs above the store," said a son, Joseph Miklasz of Crownsville, who recalled local farmers arriving in the early 1950s in horse-drawn farm wagons for supplies.

"The place was right out of a Barry Levinson film and reminded me of those days. It had creaky wooden floors, penny candy and cold sodas stacked in an old-fashioned cooler," said Scott Rykiel, a nephew who worked there as a student in the 1960s. "There were lots of characters in the store, and she was one of them. There was Frenchie, the bread man, and Rooney and Chester, who always sat on the porch. No one was known by their right name," said Mr. Rykiel, now a landscape architect.

"The store was opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. She taught me a lot about hard work. She and her husband seldom took vacations," he said.

Mrs. Miklasz was also quick to adapt the store to new uses. When the feed and seed department closed, she opened a crab shack in the former space, offering steamed crabs in season.

"She had a kitchen in the back where she prepared homemade soups, kielbasa, chili, deviled eggs, shrimp salad and coleslaw," her son said. "The place always had wonderful smells."

Mrs. Miklasz had a big heart, but she could also be a person to be reckoned with.

An outspoken critic of Ku Klux Klan activity that occurred in the area during the 1940s and 1950s, Mrs. Miklasz was a friend to African-Americans and Jews who were targets of Klan activities.

"When there were cross burnings, she'd call the police. She battled the Klan. In spite of threats against her family and business, she simply refused to tolerate the Klan," said her son.

When families suffered tragedies or misfortunes, Mrs. Miklasz was there to offer help. She'd take in children until they were placed in foster homes and plead for leniency for teen-agers who had minor scrapes with the law.

It wasn't uncommon, said family members, for Mrs. Miklasz to promise the judge that she'd function as the miscreant's "parole officer" and require the teen to visit her once a week for a chat.

She extended credit to those who couldn't afford to pay for food or supplies and every Christmas Eve forgave those debts.

"She didn't want the customer to go into the new year in debt," her son said.

The former Marie H. Rykiel was the second of 12 children and was raised in Linthicum. She attended Holy Rosary Parochial School in East Baltimore, until she left to help support her family.

She was a communicant of St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Jessup.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at noon today at Holy Rosary Church, 400 S. Chester St.

In addition to her son Joseph, she is survived by another son, Bernard Miklasz of Odenton; two daughters, Joanne Glodek and Monia Macaluso, both of Severn; a brother, Melvin Rykiel of Towson; three sisters, Martha Jarosinski of Severn, Mildred Faherty of Baltimore and Pauline Schilpp of White Marsh; 10 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

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