Beatrice Catherine Dowdy, 91, longtime bookkeeper


Beatrice Catherine Dowdy, a bookkeeper who worked for more than six decades and for a while unintentionally kept the ledgers for a Prohibition-era bootlegger, died of a stroke Monday at Corsica Hills Nursing Home in Centreville. The former Parkville resident was 91.

Born Beatrice Catherine Beilein in Baltimore and raised in Highlandtown and South Baltimore, she was a 1930 graduate of the old St. Andrew's Commercial School, then near Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Family members said her first job was as a bookkeeper for Archbishop Michael Curley's annual card party, a Roman Catholic fundraiser. She worked from an office in the Red Room of his residence at Charles and Mulberry streets.

"I think this was where my mother got spoiled over working hours. She went in at 10 a.m. and left at 4 and had a two-hour lunch," recalled her son, James Dowdy of Romancoke on Kent Island, with whom she lived for 12 years. "As long as she didn't have to get up early, she was fine."

He said that in addition to bookkeeping, on several occasions she had to fill in as maid of honor when a bride appeared at the Basilica of the Assumption without a Catholic witness.

Mrs. Dowdy later joined a firm she recalled as the Sagro Company in South Baltimore, which claimed to manufacture a facial cream, but was actually a front for bootlegging illegal liquor during Prohibition.

"She saw the product and used it. It was like Noxzema," her son recalled yesterday. "A shipment came in once or twice a week from New Jersey. One day government agents arrived and shut the place down. She was totally stunned. They told her she could go home and said, `You don't have a job anymore.' "

She then found work with a heating contractor, William E. Wood, and the Universal Taylor Vendomat Co.

"She was a meticulous bookkeeper," her son said. "She had fine handwriting and wrote her figures using a fountain pen."

On Nov. 1, 1941, she married James H. Dowdy, a longtime Southern District police officer. She raised a family and returned to bookkeeping.

In the early 1950s, she went to work for Parkville Bank and a decade later joined Toy Barn, a former toy discounter with several locations, including a West Belvedere Avenue streetcar storage barn. She retired, for the first time, in 1974 from Garron Plastics in Rosedale.

She then moved to Romancoke, but refused to stop working. She kept books for Russell Reeling Construction in Hamilton, Bill West's seafood operation at the old downtown Wholesale Fish Market and Colts player John Mackey's restaurants out of state. When her eyesight deteriorated about 10 years ago, she reluctantly stopped working.

When she moved to the Eastern Shore, she became active in community affairs and set up the Romancoke Bingo and the Romancoke Ladies Card Circle, which is still meeting after 31 years. She became treasurer of the Romancoke on the Bay Association and the United Communities Volunteer Fire Department.

Her son said that she traveled and, until failing eyesight limited her, entertained family and friends.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Christopher's Roman Catholic Church, 1861 Harbor Drive, Chester.

In addition to her son, survivors include two daughters, Joan Dowdy of Nottingham and Mary Ellen Chittenden of Rosedale; a sister, Catherine E. Lohnes of Fullerton; and three grandchildren. Her husband died in 1994.

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