Cecelia Krall Elson, 89, teacher and traveler

May 19, 2002|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Cecelia Krall Elson, retired teacher, traveler and music lover, died Friday of respiratory failure at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. She was 89.

Born Cecilia Krall in Vienna, Austria, she was known to friends and family as Lilly. She skied and hiked in the Austrian woods, and enjoyed swimming in Alpine lakes, playing tennis and gymnastics. She graduated from the University of Vienna with a medical degree in 1937.

In 1938, she met her future husband, Walter Elson, also of Vienna, at an English language class. They married shortly thereafter and were among the last Jewish immigrants allowed to leave Austria in 1938, according to her son-in-law, Howard Sokolove.

Their sponsors were the Kohn family, partners in the local department store Hochschild Kohn. The couple settled in Northwest Baltimore, and Mrs. Elson worked for the family as a governess until her children were born, he said.

She was a homemaker and volunteer at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and other charitable organizations for many years. She loved music, played the piano and enjoyed symphony, opera and theater.

In the 1960s, after her children were grown, she taught biology and chemistry at the Community College of Baltimore. She retired from the college in the mid-1970s, said her daughter, Ruth Sokolove of Bethesda.

In her 80s, Mrs. Elson followed her wanderlust to places including Asia, Italy and Eastern Europe. But perhaps her favorite trip was to India several years ago, relatives said.

"She was always intrigued by India as a child," Mrs. Sokolove said, adding that her mother liked to recall a 4 a.m. bus trip to the Himalayas she particularly enjoyed.

Mrs. Elson and her husband were married for 54 years. He died in 1992.

She was a longtime member of Liberty Jewish Center in Pikesville and Chevra Ahavas Chesed, a European Jewish organization in Randallstown.

Whether she was playing on the floor with her grandchildren, eating her favorite spicy foods or going to a family-owned bar for the midnight musical act, Mrs. Elson's energy and wry humor inspired those around her, Mrs. Sokolove said.

"She was really cool," Mrs. Sokolove said. "Even in her failing health, she still had a smile and graceful way of dealing with adversity."

Services will be at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Sol Levinson and Bros.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Elson is survived by a son, Ronald Elson of Berkeley, Calif.; a sister, Margaret Klinger of Silver Spring; a granddaughter; two step-grandchildren; and two step-great-grandchildren.

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