Theresa V. Fenwick

Centenarian And Former Laundry Supervisor At Provident Hospital Stressed The Value Of Education To Her Children

July 25, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Theresa V. "Granny" Fenwick, former supervisor of laundry services at the old Provident Hospital who stressed the value of education to her children and grandchildren, died in her sleep July 18 at Seasons Hospice at Northwest Hospital Center. The Elkridge resident had celebrated her 100th birthday in June.

Theresa Veroma Hammond, whose parents were Cherokee Indians, was born and raised in Anderson, S.C., where she attended public schools through the third grade.

"In the early 1930s, her father was threatened with lynching, which caused him to gather his family and flee in the middle of the night to the North. They eventually settled in New York City's Harlem," said Marsha Mallory Fenwick, her daughter-in-law, a retired city public school teacher who lives in Elkridge.

Mrs. Fenwick later moved to Baltimore and married William Howard. The marriage ended in divorce.

In 1932, she began working at Provident Hospital on Liberty Heights Avenue, eventually becoming supervisor of the hospital's laundry services department. She retired in 1978.

For more than 50 years, Mrs. Fenwick and her husband, Stanislaus Fenwick, a postal truck driver whom she married in 1940, lived in the 1400 block of Myrtle Ave. in West Baltimore. He died in 1963.

"Her family and education were a big deal to her," said her daughter-in-law. "Although Granny struggled during her lifetime to read and write, she stressed the importance of education to her children and grandchildren."

While emphasizing the value of education to others, for years Mrs. Fenwick engaged in private home instruction to help with her own academic development.

Mrs. Fenwick and her home were a welcoming presence in her West Baltimore neighborhood.

"She was a saint in the best sense of the word and a saintly representation on this earth. In all the years that I've known her, and that's 60, I never heard her say a mean or cross word about anyone," said Milton A. Dugger Jr., a Towson life insurance executive who grew up in a house across the street from the Fenwick family.

"I lost my mother when I was 18, and she became a surrogate mother to me. She was always offering words of encouragement. When I needed someone to pick me up, she was right there," Mr. Dugger said.

"She did that for anyone who needed help, and she was always willing to help," he said. "She wanted to make people feel peaceful and not contentious."

Mr. Dugger, who has been a longtime close friend of Mrs. Fenwick's son, recalled the parties she allowed her son to give in her home.

"But she was always present," he said. "Everyone wanted to go to those parties, and we did that right on through college."

He recalled when Mrs. Fenwick's son-in-law, Fuzzy Kane, who later became a noted jazz pianist, married her daughter, Vencidora, and lived in her home.

"That was right after he had come out of the service in the 1940s, and Fuzzy was just starting out," Mr. Dugger said. "I remember her charging them $7.50 a week for room and board."

In 1994, Mrs. Fenwick left her longtime home and moved in with her son and daughter-in-law in Elkridge.

Last month, more than 200 family members and friends gathered at her son's home to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Mrs. Fenwick said her mother-in-law followed no particular regimen for long life.

"She lived independently until she was 85 and drove her car until she was 88," she said. "We have a long driveway here, and she loved walking up and down it, and she liked exercising and being out of doors."

Throughout her life, however, Mrs. Fenwick did not smoke or drink.

"Granny lived the good, clean life. She went to church and didn't eat red meat but liked a diet of chicken and fish," she said.

Mrs. Fenwick, who enjoyed traveling, looked forward each year to her annual family Christmas visit to relatives in Snellville, Ga.

She had been a member of Ladies Auxiliary 165 of the Knights of St. John International.

Mrs. Fenwick was a longtime communicant and usher board member of St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church, 1542 N. Fremont Ave., where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. today.

Also surviving are her son, George M. Fenwick of Elkridge; a daughter, Vencidora Kane of Baltimore; a stepson, Stanley Fenwick of Petersburg, Va.; 15 grandchildren; 35 great-grandchildren; and 10 great-great-grandchildren.

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