Carrie Geraghty, 95, waitress at tearoom, Industrial Exchange

January 14, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Carrie Margaret Geraghty, whose 75 years as a waitress in downtown Baltimore included a quarter-century at Charles Street's Woman's Industrial Exchange, died of an infection Friday at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Towson resident was 95.

Asked to fill in for two weeks at the landmark exchange in the summer of 1972, she stayed on and continued serving chicken salad platters and charlotte russe desserts for lunch for the next 25 years. She retired two months' shy of her 90th birthday.

Born in Baltimore, Carrie Willback was raised on Aiken Street and attended St. John's Parochial School.

Family members said she didn't like school, and at age 16 applied to work at the Hochschild Kohn tearoom, where she started one Christmas season about 1920. Except for her maternity leaves and two brief illnesses, she remained at the post on the sixth floor of the department store at Howard and Lexington streets until its restaurant closed about 30 years ago.

In a 1992 interview with The Evening Sun, Mrs. Geraghty recalled her days at the store. "We never had stew on the menu," she said. "It was considered undignified."

John Sondheim, an Enoch Pratt Free Library official who recalled her from the department store and the Woman's Exchange, said, "She had a great memory and loved talking about the store. She waited on all three of its founders, Max Hochschild and Louis and Benno Kohn. I think the reason she kept on working for so long was that she made it such fun."

"She was a gracious person and a delight to be around," said Clarisse B. Mechanic, who owns the downtown Mechanic Theatre and dined at the department store tearoom for many years. "She was a downtown Baltimore institution known for her fine manners and many courtesies. I'll never forget her."

For much of her career, Mrs. Geraghty worked as a waitress at both downtown Baltimore eating places alongside her sister, Dorothy "Loretta" Tarbert of Baltimore, who survives her.

"She was cheerful and competent, a very easygoing lady," said Phyllis Sanders, who retired in 2000 as the Exchange's receptionist and cashier after 60 years. "She was extremely well groomed. She loved the Woman's Exchange and always said it was the best job she ever had. She had many returning customers and she made sure everything was just so for them - silverware, the water glasses, and she'd slip them an extra roll."

"Carrie was always happy," said Trish Hall, a former Woman's Exchange waitress. "She did her job well and she was always on time."

"She was loyal and was interested in how the Exchange was doing," said Diane Coleman, its former director. "Even after she retired, she would call and ask about us."

Mrs. Geraghty was a lifelong Orioles fan and had followed the team since its days in the International League. As a young woman, she drove to Washington to see Babe Ruth play against the Washington Senators, and often talked of the experience.

She often attended home games with her husband of 45 years, Richard J. Geraghty Sr., a Domino Sugar employee and longtime usher in Section 5 behind the Orioles dugout at Memorial Stadium. He died in 1975.

A funeral Mass was offered yesterday at St. Francis of Asissi Roman Catholic Church, where Mrs. Geraghty was a member.

In addition to her sister, she is survived by five sons, Richard J. Geraghty of Bloomfield, Mich., Martin T. Geraghty and William P. Geraghty, both of Baltimore, Timothy A. Geraghty of Bel Air and Jerome G. Geraghty of Lutherville; 17 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

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