Catherine M. Judd, the co-owner of a downtown Baltimore antiques business, died of cancer Saturday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Roland Park resident was 92.
For the past 28 years, Mrs. Judd sat behind a desk at her Howard Street shop, greeted customers on a first-name basis, then conducted lengthy conversations. She was known as the Grande Dame of Antique Row.
Born Catherine Mary Leschefsky in Baltimore and raised on East North Avenue, she attended Clifton Park Junior High School.
In 1928 she married Amos Judd, a metals plater. She worked alongside her husband as secretary and treasurer of the electroplating business they founded in 1942 on Hollingsworth Street by the Inner Harbor. She handled office correspondence and bookkeeping for the business, which did brass, copper and nickel work for the government as well as private customers.
Family members said part of her firm's duties included work on the presidential yacht Sequoia, whose metal brightwork had to be replated every three years.
The family moved the business in the early 1970s from the Inner Harbor to Washington Boulevard in Southwest Baltimore. In 1976, Mrs. Judd, her husband and son Jimmie Judd decided to close the plating business and open Amos Judd & Son Antiques in the 800 block of N. Howard St. in a line of shops known as Antique Row. After her husband's death in 1985, she continued to run the business with her son and grandchildren Jay T. Judd and Geri Judd, who all live in Baltimore.
"She always loved antiques, bronzes, European art, porcelains and crystal," her son said. "She had a charisma and her customers came back repeatedly. She was good at selling and the shop was her social life. She just loved people."
Mrs. Judd, who dressed in black Chanel suits, for many years had a weekly hair appointment at the Andre's Salon on Charles Street. She wore her hair in a French roll.
"She was the hardest worker in the world. She lived for her family and totally supported them with love and understanding," said Maliene Wajer, who owns the Cross Keys, an antiques business on the same block of North Howard Street. "She was elegant and she wore a huge diamond ring. I thought of her as being very glamorous. She had lots of style."
Mrs. Judd developed a customer base that included Broadway and Hollywood actors playing Baltimore. She lined a wall of the shop with photos of her and Whoopi Goldberg, Rex Harrison, Imogene Coca, Tab Hunter and Divine. She also developed a professional friendship with Pauline Gore, Vice President Al Gore's mother, who was a customer.
"She worked five days a week until about a month ago, and six days until she was 85," said her son.
Mrs. Judd also had a standing Tuesday night dinner with family members. For many years she ate at Maria's in Little Italy, then Tio Pepe's and most recently at Gertrude's in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, Towson.
In addition to her son, survivors include another son, Jack Earl Judd of Fort Howard; 15 grandchildren; 30 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren. Another son, Amos Judd Jr., died in 1994.