Marie A. Kroen, a retired office manager who was an advocate for older persons living alone, died Monday of an infection at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The Highlandtown resident was 105.
Born Marie Anna Kuhl in Baltimore and raised on Fait Avenue, she was one of four students in the first graduating class of Sacred Heart of Jesus parochial school in 1914.
She taught herself typing and shorthand, then became a switchboard operator in a Mount Vernon area apartment building. The job provided Mrs. Kroen with an encounter she never forgot, according to a family history compiled by a nephew:
"When a lady called to pick up her daughter, Marie summoned the girl by phone and passed some time with her mother who expressed some concern about her daughter's own future and seeing Marie confided to her, `You're lucky, Ma'am, at least you have a trade. My poor Wallis -- I don't know what she's going to do.'
"The girl's full name was Wallis Warfield, later to become the Duchess of Windsor."
Mrs. Kroen worked as an office manager until she was 75 at the old Thomsen-Ellis-Hutton printing company on Water Street in downtown Baltimore. Then she worked as a legal secretary for another decade.
Family members said she lived alone in her East Avenue home until she was 99.
In 1995, she testified before a U.S. Senate committee on legislation to help the elderly remain in their homes. She was accompanied by Hopkins geriatric specialist Dr. John R. Burton.
At age 95, she had an operation for breast cancer. In a wheelchair, she participated in the Relay for Life for cancer survivors in Dundalk.
"She ate well, never smoked and had great faith," said a daughter-in-law, Hazel Kroen of Dundalk. For decades, Mrs. Kroen attended shows at the old Ford's Theater and later at the Morris A. Mechanic and Lyric theaters. She also had a long correspondence and friendship with actor Don Ameche.
Her husband of 44 years, George Kroen, a Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock employee, died in 1962.
A funeral Mass was offered yesterday at Our Lady of Pompeii Roman Catholic, where Mrs. Kroen was a member and kept the parish books until she was 92.
Survivors include three sons, Charles B. Kroen of Petal, Miss., Thomas G. Kroen of Dundalk and George A. Kroen II of Randallstown; a brother, Thomas Kuhl of Baltimore; eight grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren. A daughter, Mary T. Kroen, died in 1992.
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