Virginia Lambrow, contracting firm vice president, dies

The female pioneer in the building industry worked for Baltimore Contractors for almost 60 years and celebrated her Greek heritage

  • Virginia Lambrow
Virginia Lambrow
April 23, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Virginia Lambrow, a retired vice president of Baltimore Contractors who was an early pioneer in the construction industry, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday at her Graceland Park home. She was 92.

Born in Clarksburg, W.Va., she attended Victory High School and earned a degree at West Virginia Wesleyan College. After moving to Baltimore in 1941, she received a degree at the old Mount Vernon School of Law.

She was trained as a bookkeeper and joined Victor Frenkil at his Baltimore Contractors in the early 1940s. She remained with the firm for nearly 60 years and was considered a female pioneer in the building industry. She held the post of vice president and was part of the decision-making process.

"Everybody knew her in the industry. She was known throughout the country. It was amazing how she could reach people by phone and how well she remembered people," said her nephew, Gus Lambrow of Baltimore. "She was a presence when there were virtually no women in that industry. She had a tremendous amount of power that she earned through the respect people placed in her. But she always stayed out of the limelight."

Friends said Miss Lambrow was a constant fixture at the Baltimore Contractors headquarters, located at the foot of Central Avenue on the harbor. She was at her desk at 7:30 each morning and often remained late into the evening.

"She was a gal Friday, personal assistant, time manager, appointment maker, information gatherer, chief scheduler, social consultant and prime organizer," said Anthony "Tony" Weir of Gladwyne, Pa., who worked with her many years ago. "She was remarkably intelligent, unusually perceptive and totally discreet. She also wrought order out of the chaos that seemed to follow Victor Frenkil wherever he went."

Mr. Weir said that some people speculated that she was in large part responsible for the success that Mr. Frenkil achieved.

Friends said that one of Miss Lambrow's duties was to read The Baltimore Sun's news columns each morning. She then clipped and prepared news assessments for her boss. She often called individual reporters and kept an extensive filing system of phone numbers keyed to the Baltimore business and political community.

"She seemed to know everybody and had their phone number, too," said her nephew.

Over the years, she called senators, governors and mayors. After her boss befriended President Lyndon B. Johnson, Miss Lambrow became adept at putting his calls through to the White House. She attributed this to her ability to make friends with the president's secretary, Mildred Stegall. She also befriended President Jimmy Carter after he came to Baltimore on a political campaign.

"She was the brains behind Baltimore Contractors and was the most humble person I've ever known," said Kip Mandris, a former Lucas Bros. executive. "She also spoke formal Greek beautifully."

After the death of Mr. Frenkil in 1999, she worked for Orfanos Contractors. She retired at age 86.

Miss Lambrow was active in the Greek community and was a member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation.

"She was proud of her Greek heritage, and she claimed we were descendants of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Her family was from the island of Kos," her nephew said.

"She was deeply religious and cared for the poor and homeless," said a friend, Eugenia Kalis of Baltimore. "She collected religious icons and statutes and loved to go to the Ikaros Restaurant after church on Sunday."

Funeral services will be at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 520 Ponca St., where she was a member.

Survivors include a sister, Mary Orfanos of Baltimore; a brother, James Lambrow of Timonium; and nieces and nephews.

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