Teresa Lappin Yocum, a retired personnel manager for a downtown Baltimore department store, died of respiratory failure Tuesday at St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Southwest Baltimore, where she had lived for five years. The former Pleasant Street resident was 89.
Born Teresa Madeline Lappin in Rosendale, N.Y., she moved with her family to South Baltimore and was a graduate of St. Mary Star of the Sea parochial school.
She then started her career as a "cash girl" -- entrusted with handling money -- at the old Julius Gutman Department Store downtown while attending high school in the evenings at City College.
Mrs. Yocum worked her way up through positions of increasing responsibility, received her high school diploma and was ultimately appointed Gutman's personnel director in the 1940s.
One of her instructors at City College was Baltimore's mayor -- and the state's governor -- Theodore R. McKeldin, who taught public speaking.
"She told me McKeldin's best words of advice to novice speakers: `The object is not to get rid of the butterflies, but to get them to fly in formation,'" said son Charles E. Yocum of Ellicott City.
"She was a great public speaker, and a vivacious, outgoing person with a fabulous smile," said her other son, Richard Yocum of Columbia.
In 1943 she married Edmund F. Yocum, a Baltimore attorney and career Army officer.
During World War II, Mrs. Yocum kept active on the home front as a volunteer for the Red Cross and Civil Defense.
"I remember her stories about the war -- the rationing, the blackouts, the worry -- but no one on the home front minded because they were supporting the troops," Charles Yocum said yesterday.
After the war, the Yocums lived the traveling life of a military family, in several states and finally in Germany. Along the way, she attended Kansas State University, majoring in languages, while remaining active in the Red Cross and as a Cub Scout leader.
"She taught us to be tolerant," Richard Yocum said. "She told us that when we traveled to other places, we were guests, and we should always respect the customs and ways of life of the people living there."
In 1957, Mrs. Yocum and her family returned to Baltimore and she became personnel manager for Hess Shoes. She was also volunteers director at St. Agnes Hospital. And before retiring about 25 years ago, she worked in the human resources department of the old Union Trust Co.
After her husband's 1979 death, she moved to a seniors high-rise at the Inner Harbor. Later, Mrs. Yocum moved to Owen Brown Place in Columbia, where she became a church receptionist and a Eucharist minister at St. John Roman Catholic Community at the Interfaith Center in Wilde Lake, where a Mass will be offered at noon Friday.
In addition to her sons, survivors include two grandsons.