Margaret Johnston

[ Age 91 ] School baker was a dedicated community volunteer.

April 28, 2008|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun reporter

Patapsco Senior High School alumni from the late 1960s or early 1970s may share sweet memories of "Miss Margaret" Johnston, who as primary baker for the school for more than a decade, produced all the cakes and desserts students ate in their cafeteria.

"She was always putting on an extra layer of icing for the kids, or giving them a big piece ... They always liked it when Miss Margaret was on duty," said her daughter, Carol Gay of Edgemere.

Margaret Catherine Johnston died Tuesday of complications of Alzheimer's disease, at Quail Run, an assisted living center in Perry Hall. The former Dundalk resident was 91, the oldest in a family of five generations.

Born Margaret Catherine Smeltzer in Cumberland, she grew up in Wiley Ford, W.Va. She attended schools in Cumberland and graduated in 1934 from Penn Avenue High School.

Two years later, she married Virgil Johnston, whom she met while working at the Celanese Corp. plant near Cumberland. They had three children and enjoyed camping and gardening together.

In 1955, after the Celanese production line her husband worked on was shut down, Mrs. Johnston and her family moved to Dundalk, where he took a job at the Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrows Point. She taught Sunday school and found work in fabric sales at the Hoschild-Kohn store at the Eastpoint shopping center, according to her daughter.

In 1964, Mrs. Johnston became the primary baker at the Patapsco high school, and remained there until 1975. "At her funeral, they said she fed the children sweets, and ate sweets all her life and lived to 91. So much for health foods," Mrs. Gay said.

After Mrs. Johnston and her husband retired, they moved back to Cumberland. But Mr. Johnston died the following year, and she returned to Baltimore, bought a home and went back to work.

At the age of 74, she completed clerical skills training at Dundalk Community College, and worked in a series of jobs at the community college as a senior aide, and at The Alliance Inc., a nonprofit that provides assistance to the elderly.

She helped to support numerous religious organizations with financial gifts and, at 80, was recognized for her volunteer work at St. Luke's Place, a Catholic senior housing facility in Edgemere.

She was also an office clerk for two years at Chesapeake Terrace Elementary School in Sparrows Point, leaving at the age of 87.

"She was a very ambitious lady," her daughter said. Just two days before her death, "she was still asking her pastor if she could have a job at the church. She didn't like lying in bed."

Mrs. Johnston was a member of the Bethel Assembly of God, in Sparrows Point. "Her faith and her family were her life," Mrs. Gay said.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Johnston is survived by a second daughter, Doris Pettrone, of Buford, Ga.; three sisters, Doris Brooke and Gladys Doyle, of Greencastle, Pa., and Nancy Buser, of Ridgeley, W.Va.

Also surviving are six grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild. In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by a son, Raymond Johnston.

Funeral services were held Friday.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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