Eleanor Winkenwerder

A social worker at Johns Hopkins Hospital's sexually transmitted diseases clinic, she later turned to painting.

November 11, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Eleanor Z. Winkenwerder, a retired social worker who helped research syphilis at Johns Hopkins Hospital during the 1930s and later became an artist, died in her sleep Wednesday at Roland Park Place. She was 99.

Eleanor Zouck, the daughter of a Baltimore lumber executive, was born at home on Belmont Avenue in Glyndon.

"She would often joke that her one claim to fame was that she was brought into this world by Dr. T. Rowe Price, father of the founder of T. Rowe Price," said her son, Peter Winkenwerder of Glyndon.

Mrs. Winkenwerder was raised in Glyndon and graduated in 1926 from the old Hannah More Academy.

She later attended St. Mary's On the Hudson and earned a degree in social work from the Scudder School in New York City.

Mrs. Winkenwerder returned to Baltimore and took a job as a social worker at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She worked there with Dr. Joseph Earle Moore, an associate professor of medicine who was in charge of the hospital's sexually transmitted diseases clinic.

Because of the social stigma attached to venereal disease at the time, the code name for the clinic was "Department L," her son said.

"It was so sensitive that she didn't even tell her parents the nature of her work, because if they had known what she was doing, they would have forbidden her going to Hopkins. She just told them that she worked in 'Department L,' " her son said.

Mrs. Winkenwerder's role was to follow patients and gather clinical data.

"She was known in East Baltimore, Federal Hill and the West Baltimore areas as 'The Lady from the Hospital,' as she tracked patients to ensure that they complied with their treatment," Mr. Winkenwerder said.

"She often told stories of how residents of the areas went out of their way to protect her from any danger, as this dedicated 5-foot-2-inch lady made her rounds, knocking on doors or searching local bars for her patients," he said.

Mrs. Winkenwerder left Hopkins in 1934 after her marriage to Dr. Walter L. Winkenwerder, an associate professor of medicine at Hopkins. He later became physician in charge of the hospital's allergy and infectious disease clinic from 1957 to 1965. He died in 1984.

In the late 1930s, Mrs. Winkenwerder, who was known as "Mrs. Wink," began studying painting. She was a student of the French-born Jacques Maroger, noted painter, art conservator and creator of the Maroger method, at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Mrs. Winkenwerder continued painting until she was in her late 80s, when she began to experience coordination problems. She especially enjoyed painting portraits of children, still lifes and landscapes.

Mrs. Winkenwerder was a lifelong bridge player.

"She was a crafty bridge player. Few wanted to play against her," her son said, laughing.

For the past 22 years, the former Glyndon resident had lived at Roland Park Place.

A self-reliant individual, Mrs. Winkenwerder, was known for her forthrightness.

"She was never at a loss for words," her son said. "A friend would ask, 'Eleanor, what do you think of that?' which would trigger an endless avalanche of humor and satire. She may have been feisty and a bulldog, but she was awfully kind and affable."

She was a member of the Elkridge Club and St. John's Episcopal Church in Glyndon.

Services are private.

Also surviving are a daughter, Joanne W. Rienhoff of Granby, Colo.; and many nieces and nephews.

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