Lifelong Catonsville resident Catherine Morsberger Bellis will celebrate her 100th birthday July 31. (Photo by Maggie Schorr, Patuxent Publishing / July 5, 2011)

Happy 100th birthday to great-grandma Bee (Catherine Morsberger Bellis), a lifelong Catonsvillian who will celebrate the milestone July 31.

She now lives with her son Tim, off Edmondson Avenue, near Academy Heights.

A grandmother to 24 and great-grandmother to 33, including the latest that arrived June 27, she writes poetry and knits scarves for the homeless.

She doesn't own a bought dress because she has always made her own clothes.


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She's never owned a car because she never needed one, living as she did so near the street car line.

Her home for 67 years on Bloomsbury Avenue was the "beehive" and she was the queen bee.

She and her husband Walter (who passed away about 40 years ago) raised eight children, five girls and three boys, in the three-bedroom house with one bath.

The entire family, all 10 of them, once took a vacation day trip on the "Smokey Joe," a boat that left the Inner Harbor at Pratt Street and took passengers to Tall Chester on the Eastern Shore for a picnic and a day of fun.

She met Walter when both sang in the choir for St. Timothy's Church.

He loved to sing and he played the piano.

A Relay native, he worked for the B&O Railroad as a "fireman," shoveling coal for the steam engines.

He also set up a train garden in their living room, even constructing a tunnel in the wall from the dining room to the living room and under the grand piano.

The garden remained up, she said, from "Thanksgiving to George Washington's birthday."

One of 11 children, she attended Catonsville schools, graduated from Catonsville High in 1929, and took classes at the Baltimore Business College. 

Her father was a house painter, "the best in town," she said.

The family lived on Sanford Avenue for a few years then moved to Bloomsbury Avenue when Bellis was very young.

She remembers writing an essay titled "What Catonsville Means to Me" for a local contest and winning first place prize of $25.

She wrote her brother while he was in France fighting in World War 1.

She used to visit Garber's Country Store and remembers the sawdust on the floors and food hanging from the ceiling.

In 1911, Catonsville looked a lot different than it does today.