Anna Marie Landenberger

[ Age 106] She began as a mill worker at the age of 11 and later in life won awards for decades of devotion to volunteerism.

January 20, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Anna Marie Landenberger, who worked for much of her 106 years and lived by the words, "Keep your mouth shut and your hands busy," died of a heart ailment Sunday at her Cheswolde home.

Anna Marie Lehr was born in Baltimore and raised in the Remington section of North Baltimore. Her father owned and operated a small bakery on 28th Street where her mother and her seven siblings worked.

Because the family needed money, she became a textile worker at the old Mount Vernon Mills in the Jones Falls Valley when she was 11 years old.

She worked in the cotton mills, where canvas was made, until city authorities intervened and told her mother she must attend school. She enrolled at Margaret Brent School in Charles Village and remained in class until she was 14. She then returned to the cotton mill but took night classes at a Roman Catholic school established for working teens in the neighborhood.

She became a nanny for a family in the Dixon Hill section of Mount Washington but soon rejoined her family to help take care of younger brothers and sisters. She eventually took a job at the old Chesapeake Bakery at what was then Oak and 24th streets -- now Howard and 24th. There she met her future husband, Samuel Landenberger, who managed the bakery.

During the Depression, he lost his job and she took up dressmaking and smocking dresses for children. She supported the family -- but still lost the home she and her husband were buying.

"My mother could do anything, and she was always here to help somebody else," said her daughter, Dorothy M. White, with whom her mother lived. "I could not have been any prouder of her -- she was the one everybody came to for assistance. They said, `Marie can do it.' And she did."

She raised two daughters, and after they started working, Mrs. Landenberger returned the Mount Vernon Mills for another period of employment.

"The mill doctor there encouraged her to leave because she wasn't that strong, and conditions there were injurious to her health," her daughter said.

One daughter found a job at the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. on Light Street, and Mrs. Landenberger followed her, becoming a telephone operator in 1944.

"That was a job she loved," her daughter said, adding that it lasted only five years. A doctor misdiagnosed her condition, saying she had a bad heart. She reluctantly gave up telephone work and spent 15 years with her husband at their Cheswolde home. He died in 1971.

"To ease her sorrow, the family suggested she become involved in the volunteering, " her daughter said. "She made craft items at first, and later she crocheted baby hats and lap robes." These she gave to hospitals and nursing homes.

Mrs. Landenberger worked with the Telephone Pioneers of America, a volunteer service organization. She spent 30 years making the robes and infant hats for its Binky Patrol, whose members belong to a Hunt Valley Telephone Pioneers group.

As she turned 100, she lost her hearing but continued to knit six hours daily.

"Her saying was, `I can hear what I want to hear,'" her daughter said. "Her motto was `Keep your mouth shut and your hands busy.'"

Mrs. Landenberger devoted three decades to her handiwork and stopped in 2001. She was given a life membership in the Telephone Pioneers.

In 1998 Mrs. Landenberger received a JC Penney Golden Rule Award for knitting in service of others. In 2004, the state of Maryland presented her with a Salute to Excellence citation.

On her birthday, June 5, 2005, then-Mayor Martin O'Malley proclaimed Marie Landenberger Day in recognition of her volunteer spirit.

Funeral services were held Thursday at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on St. Paul Street, where she was the congregation's oldest member.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include three grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Marie Janet Yaple, died in 2004.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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