Josephine M. Puppa, 94, Hecht employee

August 07, 2005|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Josephine M. Puppa, the daughter of Polish immigrants and a former Hecht Co. employee who enjoyed treating family and friends to her cooking, died of natural causes July 31 at Howard County General Hospital. She was 94. Before moving to Ellicott City, she was a longtime resident of Dundalk.

"She had a open-door policy in her home," said Monica S. Wilson, a granddaughter who lives in Elkridge.

"She'd sit you down at the table, grab food from the refrigerator and start cooking - it was an ethnic thing, her expression of love," her granddaughter said.

Among everyone's favorites were Mrs. Puppa's signature treat, her chruscikis. In many Polish home kitchens, the bow tie-shaped cookies, sprinkled with powdered sugar, are called angel wings or pig ears.

"And she always fried them in lard," Mrs. Wilson said.

Josephine Majka was born on Bethel Street in Fells Point. She attended Holy Rosary Roman Catholic School and attended three years of public high school.

Because only Polish was spoken in her home, Mrs. Puppa studied English after her regular classes. While in high school, she also worked in an East Baltimore sewing factory to help pay the family's bills.

As a member of the Holy Rosary choir, she was drawn to a baritone soloist, Adam Puppa, who had immigrated to Baltimore from Poland. They were married in 1930.

They lived in Highlandtown and later moved to Kinship Road in Dundalk, closer to the shipyard where her husband worked. He died in 1978.

"Mom went to work in the late 1940s, first at a bakery in Dundalk and then at the Hecht Co. in Baltimore," said her daughter, Marianne Schoeffield of Ellicott City. She was employed for at least 15 years at the department store, where she first sold ladies coats and later worked in the business office.

"There was a lot of love in our house," Mrs. Schoeffield said. "My parents were old-school. What they did was happening all over the city, different ethnic groups in different neighborhoods. ... It was a special time."

Her granddaughter said Mrs. Puppa also told stories about old Baltimore, rich in detail about a family's and a city's history.

"Even until a few months ago, her memory was incredibly sharp," Mrs. Wilson said.

"One of her favorite stories, and thus one of mine, was how she went to the country in the summers to pick strawberries for 25 cents a basket," Mrs. Wilson said.

An active member of the Ateaze Senior Center in Dundalk, Mrs. Puppa visited Poland three times and took bus trips and cruises.

A funeral Mass was offered Thursday at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Elkridge.

In addition to her daughter and granddaughter, survivors include a brother, Boleslaus "Bill" Majka of Dundalk; a grandson; and three great-grandchildren.

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