Hortense Marshall, who cleaned houses and minded children for several prominent Baltimore families and used her earnings to help put four siblings through college, died of heart failure Tuesday at Northwest Hospital Center. The lifelong Baltimore resident had turned 91 the day before.
Hortense Young was born in the Sandtown-Winchester area, where she would live until she was 87. She lived in the Rosemarie Manor assisted-living community in Baltimore for the past four years.
She graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1932 and began cleaning houses in the city.
She helped her mother to raise two brothers and four sisters and used her earnings from cleaning to help pay for her siblings' education. Two sisters became nurses and a brother became an official for the United Negro College Fund in Cleveland.
"She took a lot of pride in everything they did," said Esther Oliver, the niece of Mrs. Marshall's husband, Timothy Marshall.
The Marshalls married in 1948. Mr. Marshall died in 1962.
She worked for a Woodbrook surgeon, Dr. John Classen, from the time he was a newlywed until his three boys were college-age. She helped raise the Classen children and always referred to them as "her boys," Mrs. Oliver said.
As adults, the Classens remained devoted to her, visiting her in the hospital shortly before she died.
"She really considered them to be her family," Mrs. Oliver said.
Mrs. Marshall later worked for Walter Sondheim, a former chairman of the city's Urban Renewal and Housing Commission and longtime civic leader.
Mr. Sondheim remembered her as "a very bright person, well-read and active."
"She really sacrificed her own education to help others in her family," he said.
He said that in her later years, she became concerned about deteriorating conditions in Sandtown-Winchester, so he sent a car to pick her up and drop her off every time she cleaned his house. She worked for Mr. Sondheim until she broke her hip at age 87.
She was an avid bowler for more than 30 years, who, before she broke her hip, walked to the Shake and Bake Family Fun Center in West Baltimore once a week to bowl.
Mrs. Marshall was a member of Payne Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church from the time she was a young girl and vividly remembered walking to the church's building on Madison Avenue on the day it opened in 1927, Mrs. Oliver said.
She was a trustee and president of the Willing Workers for Payne Memorial Church, overseeing fund raising and maintenance.
Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the church, 1714 Madison Ave.
Mrs. Marshall is survived by two sisters, Matilda Walton and Corinne Young, both of Teaneck, N.J.; and a stepdaughter, Nira Clark of Washington.