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The Baltimore Sun

Special birthday celebrates a life in Catonsville

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.

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.

As a child, she'd visit local merchants, like the Feed Store on Frederick Road and Bloomsbury.

"I used to ask Mr. Davis, the owner, if he would weigh me on the big scale used for seed and supplies," she said.

Her memory is amazing. She remembers going to the Fair of the Iron Horse in Halethorpe in 1927 and cheering for Charles Lindbergh in Baltimore after his 1927 Spirit of St Louis flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris.

Grandma Bee volunteered at St. Timothy's, where her parents were married in 1896, for much of her life. She taught Sunday school, volunteered for 20 years with the Altar Guild and hosted parties for children with cerebral palsy. A few years ago, the church on Ingleside Avenue renamed its parish hall in her honor.

"Her birthday is a big deal for our family," said granddaughter Amy Bellis Williams."My cousin and her family are missionaries in New Zealand and they traveled to be here for Gran's birthday.

"My brother, who lives in North Carolina, is coming also."

The greater Morsberger/Bellis family in Catonsville invites family and friends to St. Timothy's Sunday Service July 31 to honor Great-Gran Bee.

Her advice when asked how to age well?

"Keep a song in your heart and follow the Lord."

Art for helping others

Nina Evans, who just finished seventh grade at Catonsville Middle School, deserves credit for her service project helping Lighthouse, Inc. a nonprofit youth and family services center on Mellor Avenue that has been around since 1971.

She designed coin collection canisters and placed them in various businesses around town to increase donations to the counseling agency.

Nina also used her considerable artistic gifts to draw caricatures for donations during a fundraiser in the fall.

She'll be doing that again at the Lighthouse Inc. Summer Stroll on July 16, 4-8 p.m.

Go to http://www.lighthouse-md.org and purchase a $25 ticket to receive discounts at numerous Catonsville area bars, restaurants and shops, plus a T-shirt and wristband.

"Lighthouse is a youth and family services center that relies heavily on community support. Nina is a great example of that support," said Linda Lombardo, executive director at Lighthouse.

For information call 410-788-5483.

Another's treasure

Freecycle is a group that matches people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them.

The Catonsville Freecyle group, catonsvillemd@mods.freecycle.org, has 1,997 members.

"It has been a great way to find a new home for things that we are no longer using," said Westchester resident Megan Peercy, who learned about Freecycle a few months ago.

"It's wonderful to know that someone else can get more use out of something that we don't need anymore, so it really feels like recycling with purpose," Peercy said.

"My experience with people on Freecycle is that they have been so nice. I got an email yesterday from someone we just passed some computer speakers on to, and she said she was already using them and so happy.

"It is a great way to get and give kids' stuff. We ended up trading a baby gate we no longer needed for a bike for one of our kids recently, too."

The group covers ZIP codes 21228, 21227 and the vicinity.

After signing up for an account, you can post items for offer or items you need. You also receive a weekly email with items posted.

Recently, those items included birdhouses, metal trash cans, sleds, a small wading pool, patio umbrella, four bags of concrete, several pieces of rebar and a 55-gallon salt water tank with oak stand.

The website encourages folks to "clean out your garage and home and offer things, new and gently used, that someone else may need. By using what we already have on this earth, we reduce consumerism, manufacture fewer goods, and lessen the impact on the earth. Another benefit of using Freecycle is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need and promote community involvement in the process."

Check out the site http://www.freecycle.org/group/CatonsvilleMd.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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