Alice E. Krupsaw, federal worker

Centenarian's favorite song was "Enjoy Yourself — It's Later Than You Think"

  • Alice Ettlin Krupsaw
Alice Ettlin Krupsaw (Bonnie J. Schupp )
December 23, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Alice E. Krupsaw, a retired federal worker who found joy in creative and artistic endeavors, died Dec. 16 of undetermined causes at the Milford Manor Nursing Home in Pikesville. She was 106.

Alice Ettlin was born in Washington, the oldest of three children of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. Her father, Louis Ettlin, was a tailor, and her mother, Ida Ettlin, was a homemaker.

In "An Even 100," a volume of her writing published for her centennial birthday in 2007, Mrs. Krupsaw recalled growing up in "Little Israel" on Eagle Street and then on Monroe Street.

"The house on Monroe Street was modern and had electricity," she wrote. "And what a great time my brother Ben and I had running into every room, pushing buttons just to see the lights go on."

Mrs. Krupsaw wrote that time had not dimmed her memories of her mother preparing meals on a coal stove in the kitchen when the family lived on Eagle Street.

"The Friday aroma that emanated from the roasting chicken, meats, kugels, sponge cakes and Mama's challah that tasted like cake — in the shape of a boat, and baked in the forms that Mama had brought from Russia … if I live to be a hundred, I'll always remember those wonderful meals," she wrote.

When the family moved to a Monroe Street rowhouse, she wrote that her mother "prepared her delicious meals on a modern gas range. We also had a big furnace in the basement that provided heat in all the rooms in the house."

"In later years, she marveled at the changes she had seen in a lifetime, from the days of ice-box refrigeration when her father drove a 'Tin Lizzy' automobile with a crank-starter, to mankind's first steps on the moon," said a nephew, David Michael Ettlin, a retired Baltimore Sun editor who lives in Pasadena.

"She marveled that people from across the world could see her in a YouTube video from her 101st birthday, singing her favorite song, 'Enjoy Yourself — It's Later Than You Think.' It has been viewed more than 10,000 times, and an excerpt was broadcast on CNN," her nephew said.

Mrs. Krupsaw was a graduate of city public schools and attended Strayer's Business College before her 1925 marriage to Louis Krupsaw, who had served in the Marine Corps and later the Army.

"They operated a delicatessen for a short time in Baltimore, but no one can remember when or exactly where," said Mr. Ettlin. "I heard once that it was on Gay Street. The only evidence is the rudimentary start of a novel Alice tried to write in pencil — on brown butcher paper."

Mrs. Krupsaw moved to Washington about 1950, when her husband got a job delivering newspapers for the old Washington Daily News, and she began a series of jobs with the federal government. She worked for the mint, the printing office and at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

"She enjoyed telling about the time she delivered a set of X-rays to a White House official and of meeting first lady Mamie Eisenhower," her nephew said.

Her husband died in 1955. Mrs. Krupsaw later moved back to Baltimore to care for her parents, who were in declining health. She worked at the Social Security Administration and retired in 1975 from the SSA's headquarters in Woodlawn.

After the death of her parents, she moved into a Northwest Baltimore apartment that she filled with her paintings and with dolls "who became her pseudo-children. She made many of them, and their clothing, and even set up a doll Jewish wedding scene," said Mr. Ettlin.

Mrs. Krupsaw began making finger puppets for children who were ill and donated hundreds of them to Baltimore area hospitals and hospitals in Israel. She also donated them to schools and children's homes around the nation.

She began taking painting lessons in 1977 at the Waxter Senior Center and painted on canvas. She also turned to poetry, which she wrote in longhand before typing her work.

"As a dancer, often in Carmen Miranda-style costumes, she performed with a troupe in visits to senior centers and nursing homes," said her nephew.

She was a member of the Liberty Super Senior Singers and the Prime Time Players.

About a decade ago, Mrs. Krupsaw lost a leg to a blood clot, which meant she had to give up her apartment, stop driving, and move into a nursing home.

At Milford Manor, her poetry was published in the nursing home's monthly news bulletin, and she enjoyed playing bingo.

Mrs. Krupsaw was known for advising both staff and visitors to fulfill their dreams and not put them off. "Do it now," she would say. "Do it now."

Mrs. Krupsaw never drank or smoked and had "good genes," according to Mr. Ettlin. "She claimed she didn't eat sugar, but her honey cake, which was the best, had a whole bottle of whiskey in it."

Mrs. Krupsaw, who in a photographic project titled "Defining Ourselves" that had been created by Bonnie J. Schupp, the wife of Mr. Ettlin, described herself: "I am many people — dancer, actress, singer, writer, traveler … all with imagination."

Private services for Mrs. Krupsaw were held Thursday at Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery in Rosedale.

In addition to Mr. Ettlin, Mrs. Krupsaw is survived by a brother, Sam Ettlin of Lauderhill, Fla.; and another nephew, Dennis M. Ettlin of Mount Airy.

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