Chrissie D.M. Beall, 102, pianist, gardening enthusiast, avid reader

May 01, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Chrissie D.M. Beall, a sprightly centenarian who was nicknamed the "Road Runner" by fellow residents of Fairhaven, died in her sleep April 23 at the Sykesville retirement community. She was 102.

"She was called the Road Runner because the way she moved around with her walker. She always attributed her strong legs to her days playing field hockey back in England," said her daughter, Martha Watson Beall Keller of Fenwick Island, Del.

Mrs. Beall remained a vigorous and active presence at the retirement community where she had lived since 1992. Earlier, she had lived in Ellicott City and Hunting Ridge.

Chrissie Doris Miller Marley-Cass was born in Jamaica, where her father, the Rev. John Robert Marley-Cass, was an Anglican priest.

As a young girl, Mrs. Beall and her sister attended an English boarding school.

"When she was 11, she was sent to the Goudhurst School for Girls in Kent. When World War I broke out, they stayed in England because their parents were fearful that they might be torpedoed traveling back to Jamaica by ship," Mrs. Keller said.

The family was reunited in 1918, after the Rev. Marley-Cass left Jamaica to become a priest at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City.

In 1922, she married Arthur Clayton Beall, who was vice president and sales manager of C. M. Pitt Co., a manufacturer of glace fruit. The couple lived in Hunting Ridge for 52 years, until his death in 1974.

Mrs. Beall, who for many years enjoyed working in her English garden, liked to sit in the garden at Fairhaven on warm afternoons.

She was an avid reader and only turned on the television to watch Tom Brokaw on NBC's evening news, family members said.

"She followed a regular routine until recent years, which included spending her days reading. In the morning, she'd read British history; in the afternoons, it was travelogues. At night, she'd read Harlequin romance novels," Mrs. Keller said.

Mrs. Beall enjoyed dressing for dinner, often wearing gloves and hats to the retirement community's dining room.

"She was a true lady," her daughter said.

Mrs. Beall preferred to eat only chicken, vegetables, nuts and berries, the daughter said. She did not smoke.

"She drank goat's milk and not cow's milk. She'd only drink a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream on festive occasions," Mrs. Keller said.

"She was very healthy right up till her death and liked going for rides and exploring old graveyards where she recognized many of the names on the tombstones," the daughter said.

An accomplished pianist, Mrs. Beall enjoyed playing popular music of the 1920s and 1930s.

"Not long before her death, she was waiting in a packed auditorium for a pianist to arrive. When it was announced that there had been a problem, she got up and played the piano," Mrs. Keller said.

Mrs. Beall swung into ragtime versions of "Moonlight Bay," `The Strutter's Ball," "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "Daisy."

"The more they clapped, the more she played," said her daughter.

Before her death, she attended a meeting of the Red Hat Society, where all the members dress and wear red millinery.

"For two hours she told stories of her life in Jamaica. She came home, ate dinner, went to sleep and never woke up. She went into a deep sleep and died four days later," Mrs. Keller said.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. May 9 in the chapel at Fairhaven, 7200 Third Ave., Sykesville.

Mrs. Beall is survived by two other daughters, Jane Christine Beall Hake of St. Louis and Patricia Marley-Cass Beall Snader of Lake Shore; eight grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and a great-great granddaughter.

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