Gwendolyn Townes, 85, office manager

July 13, 2006

Gwendolyn Townes, a retired office manager and former barmaid, died of cancer Friday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The West Baltimore resident was 85.

The former Gwendolyn Brown was born in Baltimore and raised on Division Street. She graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1954.

Mrs. Townes was a Hecht Co. sales associate before becoming a security clerk at Fort Holabird in 1967. Three years later, she became a barmaid at the Sphinx Club on Pennsylvania Avenue, where she became a favorite of the private club's members.

"Gwenie was our favorite drink dispenser. There were about 12 seats on her end of the bar, and regulars always came early to claim them. They were very prized," said James E. "Biddy" Wood, a retired music promoter and longtime friend.

"It was at the Sphinx Club that she met outstanding black professional athletes, which led her to become a big Orioles fan and a regular attendee at home games," Mr. Wood said.

In 1983, Mrs. Townes became a receptionist in the state public defender's office and was later promoted to office manager. She retired in May.

"Her favorite holidays were Thanksgiving and Christmas. She loved to decorate and cook hog maws, chitterlings, barbecued chicken and greens," said her daughter, Donna P. Townes of Baltimore.

"For years, her former home in the 1800 block of Division St. was like a community YMCA and YWCA where neighbors and children were always welcome. She loved entertaining friends, neighbors and her family," Mr. Wood said.

Mrs. Townes enjoyed jigsaw puzzles and interior decorating.

She was a member of Community Baptist Church of Walbrook, 2311 Garrison Blvd., where a memorial service will be held at noon Saturday.

Also surviving are a son, Gary E. Townes of Baltimore; two brothers, Grafton Brown of Baltimore and Marcellus Brown of Philadelphia; a sister, Rosina Norman of Baltimore; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. She was separated from her husband of 49 years, Aaron Townes. A son, Aaron B. Townes, died in 1981.

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