Ethel A. Smith, waitress and poet, dies at 101

Bonnie Blink resident also worked at Hutzler's department store

March 20, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen

Ethel A. Smith, a retired waitress and Highlandtown poet, died March 11 in her sleep at Bonnie Blink, the Maryland Masonic home in Hunt Valley. She was 101.

Ethel Adel Swanner, the daughter of farmers, was born in Rutledge, Harford County.

In 1918, she moved with her family to a rowhouse on Lombard Street in Highlandtown. She attended city public schools through the sixth grade, when she dropped out to help raise a brother after her mother became ill.

In 1926, she married Robert Keller, a baker who later became a tavern owner. She worked as a waitress at Sirken's Restaurant in Walbrook and at Hutzler's department store on Howard Street.

Mr. Keller died in 1946.

In 1948, she married Elmer J. Smith, an Armco Steel Co. steelworker. The couple then owned and operated a Greenmount Avenue confectionary store, and after selling the business, purchased a grocery store in the 1200 block of Sergeant St.

The couple moved to a rowhouse on Clinton Street. Mr. Smith, who retired as a Davison Chemical Co. night watchman, died in 1992.

In 1971, Mrs. Smith began writing poetry, and a copy of her poem, "Turn Back to God," which she sent to Barbara A. Mikulski, prompted a 2001 note from the Maryland senator.

"Your poem is very moving. I loved the words of your poem so much that I submitted them to the Congressional Record," wrote Senator Mikulski.

She composed her last poem in 2004, said her son, Allen D. Keller of Parkville.

When she was 90, she sold her home and moved to Kirkwood House, a seniors complex on Loch Raven Boulevard. She had been a resident of Bonnie Blink since 2007.

"She was a person who used her God-given talents to the maximum and who became a dynamic influence in her community through friendship, love and her poetry," her son said.

Her son said he attributed his mother's longevity to "not smoking; however, she did enjoy an occasional glass of port or sherry."

She was a member of Highland United Methodist Church.

In addition to writing poetry, she enjoyed knitting and crocheting.

Services were held at Bonnie Blink on Tuesday.

Also surviving are two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Another son, Robert Kenneth Keller, died in 1929.

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