Constance Kaiser, 87, honored husband killed on duty

November 02, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Constance Carol Kaiser, who devoted her life to preserving the memory of her late husband, a Baltimore police officer who died 41 years ago, died Wednesday from a stroke at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 87.

Known as Minnie, Constance Carol Fertitta was born to Italian immigrant parents and grew up in the 300 block of N. Paca St.

She had wanted to study engineering at then all-male Polytechnic Institute, but attended Western High School and graduated with honors in 1933.

About 1940, she met and then married Carroll Becker "Fritz" Kaiser, a Baltimore police officer and musician.

"Fritz was an accomplished musician who played trumpet with some of the major local jazz bands of the time," said Scott Serio, a great-nephew who lives in Baltimore. "He became a celebrity and routinely played at the Two O'Clock Club on The Block and at the Southern Hotel. Wherever Fritz and Minnie went, he'd be asked to sit in with the band and play."

In his police job, Mr. Kaiser was assigned to the city's old Pine Street Station. On March 23, 1960, while returning there with his partner, he rushed to the scene of a fire that was raging through Chase Street rowhouses. He was engaged in crowd control when an explosion from a ruptured gas line knocked him to the ground, and he suffered a heart attack. He died at age 53.

A Mass was offered several days later for Mr. Kaiser at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, now St. Jude Shrine, and he was buried at New Cathedral Cemetery.

"On that day during the Easter season of 1960, Constance Kaiser's life stopped," Mr. Serio said. "She mourned the death of her husband for the next 41 years. For Minnie, there was no one who could play a trumpet the way Fritz did, and she never listened to another one after his death."

One of her cherished reminders was a small leather-bound ledger in which her husband had composed original trumpet music.

For years, on the anniversary of his death, Mrs. Kaiser placed a memorial notice in The Sun that recalled the joy of her marriage and the depth of her loss.

"Those who knew her have said that she was most happy when she had the chance to talk about and remember her husband," Mr. Serio said.

Every Wednesday morning for those 41 years, Mrs. Kaiser followed an unswerving routine. She boarded the No. 19 MTA bus in Hamilton and rode downtown to St. Jude Shrine for services.

"She was devoted to St. Jude and was one of our stalwarts at the noon novena," said the Rev. Frank Donio, the pastor.

"She had made her Holy Communion at the church in the 1920s, and it remained an important part of her life," said Mary J. Portera, a childhood friend who operates the church gift shop.

After novena, Mrs. Kaiser walked to the Lexington Market for her weekly shopping, which included a brief stop at Rheb's candy stall to purchase a half-pound box of assorted chocolates.

"She was a very kind and charitable person. She had no children of her own but loved my four children. However, after her husband's death she became something of a loner. She just went to pieces," Mrs. Portera said.

Several of her husband's compositions will be performed during the Mass of Christian burial for Mrs. Kaiser, which will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Jude Shrine, 308 N. Paca St. She will be buried next to her husband.

Mrs. Kaiser is also survived by a nephew, August Serio of Hamilton; a niece, Rose Wills of Winter Garden, Fla.; and several other great-nephews and great-nieces.

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