Winnifred Kriger, 84

Activist, school founder

January 22, 2007

Winnifred W. Kriger, a founder of an experimental high school and community activist, died in her sleep of an apparent heart attack Jan. 15 in Berwyn, Pa., where she moved three years ago. The former Mount Vernon resident was 84.

Born Winnifred Wanda Cross in Norton, W.Va., she was a Navy WAVE nurse during World War II and moved to Baltimore with her husband, advertising executive Robert A. Kriger, in 1953. She joined the Baltimore Urban League and marched in civil rights events and in Vietnam War demonstrations.

In July 1969, after the death of her 19-year-old daughter Maisie of meningitis, Mrs. Kriger decided to honor her daughter's life by becoming involved in progressive education. She helped found the Baltimore Experimental High School in September 1970.

"She had lots of energy and ideas," said Anne LeVeque, a 1977 graduate of the school who now lives in Takoma Park. "She was a down-to-earth woman who was very generous with her time and with herself."

After a fire damaged the school's Cathedral Street building, Mrs. Kriger gave the school the use of a building she owned on Maryland Avenue. The school closed in the mid-1980s.

Mrs. Kriger also became a preservation advocate for Fells Point. She purchased the Ann Fell House and worked for the annual Fells Point Fun Festival. Interested in old buildings, she rescued artifacts, buying a staircase from the Emerson Drug Co.'s offices adjoining the Bromo Seltzer Tower and mirrors from the old St. James Hotel on Mount Vernon Place before their demolitions.

She was also a supporter of Vagabond Theatre and assisted the prop and wardrobe departments.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the First Unitarian Church, Charles and Franklin streets, where she was a member.

Survivors include a son, C. Ross Smith of Wayne, Pa.; a daughter, Deborah Kriger of Long Island City, N.Y.; two sisters, Maxine Serbe of Fort Myers, Fla., and Elizabeth Houtz of Baltimore; and three grandchildren. Her husband died in 1998. Her 1946 marriage to C. Ross Smith ended in divorce.

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