Anna M. Susie

A tap-dancer who performed at the Hippodrome in the '30s, she later worked as a bookkeeper for the Catholic Center.

September 23, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Anna M. Susie, a former tap-dancer who performed at the Hippodrome Theatre during the 1930s and later worked for the Archdiocese of Baltimore at the Catholic Center, died Saturday of heart failure at St. Martin's Home in Catonsville. She was 89.

Anna Marie Witt, the youngest of seven, was born and raised on Eastern Avenue near Patterson Park.

Her father, a German immigrant, died when she was 4, and a decade later, she left school to help support her family when she took a job as a seamstress at I.C. Isaacs in Baltimore's garment district.

"Being of Polish and German decent, she was blessed to grow up in a family that loved music, and she learned to dance," said her daughter, Barbara Susie Stump of Edgewater.

After winning a ballroom dancing contest held in the mid-1930s at Patterson Park, Mrs. Susie eventually landed a job as a dancer on the stage of the Hippodrome.

The 5-foot-5-inch, 118-pound dancer appeared in The Baltimore Follies of 1937 at Lowes Century Theater, and a year later, she was tap-dancing at the Hippodrome as a member of the cast of the 1938 Stardust Review, a Busby Berkeley-inspired musical.

Years later, her memories of opening night of the 1938 Stardust Review with all of her siblings in the audience still brought a glow to Mrs. Susie's eyes and a wide smile of remembrance.

"It was exciting in capital letters," she told The Sun in a 2004 interview.

Mrs. Susie became a regular at the Hippodrome, where she performed in the three-performances-a-day vaudeville shows that were followed by a feature film.

"After the last show, I'd go home and soak my feet while listening to the radio," she said in the interview.

Mrs. Susie had hoped to go to New York but was discouraged by her family, so she remained in Baltimore.

While working at the Hippodrome, she fell in love, and after a 17-month courtship, married Francis J. Susie Sr. in 1939. Mr. Susie had risen from usher to manager of the North Eutaw Street theater.

"When we were courting, we'd walk home from the theater after the last show," Mrs. Susie said in the interview. "We never took the streetcar. He'd take me to my door, give me a peck on the cheek and then walk to his home on Streeper Street."

He died in 1985.

During her years at the Hippodrome, her paths crossed with such celebrities as Richard "Red" Skelton - then a young comic - who, she said, fell for her.

"He'd try to get into my dressing room," Mrs. Susie said years later with a laugh. And then there was the handsome crooner from Hoboken, N.J., Frank Sinatra, who was breaking young girls' hearts, including Mrs. Susie's.

"When I touched Frank Sinatra, I swore I'd never wash my hand again," she recalled years later.

Mrs. Susie ended her theatrical career with the coming of World War II when she joined the war effort and then raised her children.

After the war, she modeled, was the first runner-up in the Mrs. Maryland contest in the 1940s, and worked as a sales associate at a McCrory's five-and-dime store, as well as the Julius Gutman and Hochschild Kohn stores.

Mrs. Susie was head teller at the old Union Trust's East Monument Street branch for several years before going to work as a bookkeeper in 1964 for the League of the Little Flower at the Catholic Center.

The league helps underprivileged students attend parochial schools, Mrs. Stump said.

Mrs. Susie retired in 1984.

The former Towson resident had lived at the Catonsville nursing home operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor since 2000.

"I love to dance, and even after all these years, I still feel the urge to dance," Mrs. Susie told The Sun in 2004.

Mrs. Susie was joined by her three children for the Hippodrome's Feb. 10, 2004, gala reopening.

"Going back to the Hippodrome ... will be so exciting," Mrs. Susie said in the interview before the reopening. "Exciting in capital letters."

"Oh, she was so excited. Richard Sher from Channel 13 stopped and interviewed her," Mrs. Stump said.

Mrs. Susie remained physically active until weeks before her death, her daughter said, but never again revisited the Hippodrome of her youth.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in the chapel at St. Martin's, 601 Maiden Choice Lane.

Also surviving are two sons, Francis J. Susie Jr. of Milton, Del., and John P. Susie of York, Pa.; three grandchildren; and three great-granddaughters.

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