Evelyn M. Lit, 78, singer on radio and in nightclubs

October 21, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Evelyn M. Lit, a singer who performed on Baltimore radio stations and in nightclubs during the 1930s and 1940s, died Friday of a heart attack at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The longtime Highlandtown resident, who had lived in Cockeysville since last year, was 78.

Mrs. Lit, who was born Evelyn Kursch and was raised on Castle Street, dropped out of Forest Park High School in the 1930s, and began singing at Four Corners Cabaret in Jacksonville, Baltimore County.

She was married in 1939 to Bernie Lit Sr., an emcee and owner-publisher of Playboy Magazine. The magazine, which had no relationship with the Hugh Hefner publication, was a guidebook that listed acts performing at Baltimore nightclubs and theaters during the 1940s.

"She sang show tunes and the blues, and one of her favorite songs was `Everything,'" said a daughter, Nina Lit Nozemack of Lutherville.

Mrs. Lit, an alto, also performed popular songs on WCAO and WFBR radio in Baltimore.

"In the 1940s, she was invited to appear and give a TV demonstration at the Levenson & Klein furniture store on East Monument Street," Mrs. Nozemack said.

Mrs. Lit, who later was divorced from her husband, gave up her singing career and went to work as a bank teller for Equitable Trust Co. in 1952. She later rose to head the bank's student loan division and was a vice president at the time of her retirement in 1985.

Although she no longer performed professionally, Mrs. Lit recorded cassettes of children's songs, which she presented to her grandchildren.

One of the most moving experiences of her life was when her son, Bernie Lit Jr., who was thought to be both deaf and mute, learned to speak.

Mr. Lit, a graduate of the Maryland School for the Deaf who had studied at Gallaudet University, moved to England in 1976, to study literature, speech therapy and English sign language.

Despite the atrophied muscles in his larynx, therapists at the General School in London taught him to speak.

"I first heard his voice when he was 32, after his English therapists taught him to speak, and they sent me a tape. His first words were, `Hello, Mum. I love you.' It was so emotional," she told The Sun at the time of her son's death in 1994.

"There is a difference between American sign language and English because of the different spelling of words and the use of two hands, whereas we only use one when signing in this country," Mrs. Lit explained.

She had been a longtime communicant of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Highlandtown.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity, 20 E. Ridgely Road in Timonium.

Mrs. Lit is survived by another daughter, Jerri Ann Sunstrom of Glen Burnie; a sister, Barbara Christine of Shepherdstown, W.Va,; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Deaths Elsewhere

Kenneth Locke Hale, 67, a master of more than 50 languages and the keeper of aboriginal tongues in danger of vanishing with their speakers, died Oct. 8 at his home in Lexington, Mass. The cause was prostate cancer, said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught linguistics.

Ruth Goetz, 93, who along with her husband created The Heiress and several other well-known plays, died Oct. 12 in Englewood, N.J.

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