Betty Anne Gardner

Age 75: In 'Tinkerettes' tap troupe as a child, she never gave up love for dance.

June 02, 2008|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun reporter

Betty Anne Gardner, a tap dancer who performed on a Baltimore bar at the age of 3 and never lost her love for the spotlight, died of emphysema Friday at the home of her daughter in Baltimore. She was 75.

"Her parents owned Leo's Cafe on Montford and Preston streets ... and we have pictures of her up on the bar when she was little," said her daughter, Susan Gardener.

Mrs. Gardner studied both ballet and tap, but "mostly she was a tap dancer," her daughter said.

In her youth, she studied in the Baltimore studios of Eloise and Joe Tinker, and became one of their best dancers. As a member of the "Tinkerettes," she performed song-and-dance shows in such places as Atlantic City and New York City.

The venues were "family-oriented," her daughter said, "though some of these outfits are fishnets - definitely glittery."

She also traveled on promotional tours with Bailey Goss, a WBAL radio personality and, later, Baltimore Colts commentator.

She also designed and made Halloween costumes for herself and her twin sister, and produced musical fundraisers for her young-adult "EE-HA-WEEE Club. Later in life, she created and choreographed musical stage productions at her daughters' elementary school and fundraisers for her VFW post.

"I was really proud of her when I was younger," said Susan Gardener, who added an "e" to her last name. "When you're an older teenager, you kind of think, 'Eww.' Parents are supposed to embarrass their children."

But the former Tinkerette never lost her love of performance. "This is exactly what she would have wanted people to know about her," her daughter said. "She's tap-dancing in heaven, because that was just her life."

Born Betty Anne Finnegan in Baltimore, she attended Eastern High School and Strayer Business College. In 1951, at age 18, she married Edward Gerard Gardner, a bricklayer. Her gown was designed by her dance teacher, Joe Tinker.

Her bookkeeping and secretarial training led to many jobs over the years at such local companies as Hecht's and MCI. She also worked for B&B Contractors in Baltimore, her husband's masonry company, until his death in 1983.

She was a member - and for many years publicity chairwoman - at the Charles Evering VFW Post 6506 in Parkville, and became state president of the Ladies Auxiliary in 1988. She moved to Parkview at Chesaco, a retirement community, in 1994.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. June 11 at the VFW Post at 8777 Philadelphia Road, Rossville.

Mrs. Gardner also is survived by another daughter, Donna Niederhauser of Baltimore; two sisters, Catherine Huff of Carney and Joy Loewner of White Marsh; and four grandchildren.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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