Erika Otilie Scobel, 92

Caregiver for the mentally disabled was nicknamed `Erika America'

January 29, 2007

Erika Otilie Scobel, a caregiver for children and mentally disabled adults, died Tuesday at Morningside House of Friendship in Hanover. She was 92 and had suffered from dementia.

She was born Erika Franke in Breslau, Germany. In 1941, she married Enrich Dittmer, and the couple had two children, a son and a daughter.

During World War II, the family fled from the Russians, and Ms. Scobel twice temporarily lost her children, then ages 1 and 3, on a train to the northern part of the country.

Her daughter, Sunhild Bolander of Glen Burnie, said the experience shaped her mother's character as a "matriarch." Much of her life revolved around doing what she needed to do to survive and ensuring that her children had a bright future.

Ms. Scobel worked in Germany as a kindergarten teacher. In 1959, she and her husband and children immigrated to the United States, living first in Calvert County and then in Annapolis. She worked in a bakery and as a caregiver for the children of a prominent orthopedist.

Her husband managed the daily operations at Eagle Nest Dairy Farm, where the family lived until a car accident in 1964 that killed him and left Ms. Scobel with severe internal injuries and crushed legs. She was hospitalized for four years, but eventually learned to walk again.

"She became an independent person again and started her life over," her daughter said.

Ms. Scobel became a U.S. citizen in 1981. She was so proud of her citizenship that her friends often called her "Erika America."

A second marriage ended in divorce, at which time she began using her mother's maiden name, Scobel. Ms. Scobel followed her second husband to live in Jackson, Mich., and Wenham, Mass., where she worked as a live-in assistant to developmentally disabled adults.

At one of the group homes where she worked, she fell and broke her back. She then returned to Maryland in 1988 to live near her daughter and granddaughter.

Ms. Scobel enjoyed knitting blankets, and she made one for every doctor who took care of her. She also played the piano.

Services were held Friday.

In addition to her daughter, Ms. Scobel is survived by her son, Karsten Dittmer of Valrico, Fla.; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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