As Maryland recovers from nor'easter, Kingsville family mourns storm's casualty

Mike Baumann held his wife Betty’s bible, the one she was fond of reading on the porch of their beach house.

It was three days since the nor’easter struck Maryland with wind gusts of more than 70 mph. Three days after he had heard the knock on his door, and opened it to find two Baltimore County police officers and a paramedic on his front step.

A tree came down, they told him.

“Is she gone?” he asked. “I’m afraid so,” came the response.

Betty Baumann, 76, was checking the mail outside her Kingsville home Friday when she was struck by a falling branch and killed.

Hers was the sole reported death from the nor’easter, a storm that knocked out power to nearly half a million customers across the state. The strong, gusty winds toppled trees and power, forced major arteries closed and prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency.

Utility crews and residents across Maryland continued to work Monday to address the roughly 30,000 outages that remained. Officials from Baltimore Gas and Electric said more than 395,000 customers had had their power restored.

Several schools, including Westport Academy in Baltimore, Hampton Elementary in Baltimore County and Havre de Grace Elementary in Harford County, were closed Monday due to power outages.

While others worked to repair damage, the Baumann family spent Monday mourning the loss of a wife and mother, a devout Christian who mentored troubled women and worked at soup kitchens, a coupon queen who would spend months finding the right gift for her grandchildren.

Her husband said the winds were howling Friday morning when his wife stepped outside to get the mail.

Mike Baumann said he was sitting inside, preparing for a Bible study class he leads at the Baltimore County detention center.

Then the knock came, and police asked: “Is your wife at home?”

He said he called for her around the house, “Bett?”

That’s when they told him she had been struck and killed.

Gary Harthousen, 84, has lived across the street from the Baumanns’ home on Cedar Lane for decades. On Friday, he sat in his white pickup truck as the winds blew.

He watched Betty Baumann get the mail. On her way back in, he said, she stopped to pick up branches that had fallen to clear the road.

Then he heard the crack of the tree branch as it fell.

“It hit her instantly,” Harthousen said. He called out to her. “Betty?” She didn’t respond. He dialed 911, and a neighbor who is a firefighter ran out.

“He checked her and said, ‘Gary, she’s dead,’ ” Harthousen said. “She didn’t live a moment.”

On Monday, Baumann and his children sat in the living room of the home that “Bett” had carefully arranged. They remembered the way she cooked, and the way she cared for them. They wept.

Betty Baumann, who worked as a secretary, typed her husband’s papers when was in law school. On family vacations at their home in Ocean City, N.J., she woke up early to cook for her three daughters, her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

None of them know how to make the gravy and mashed potatoes like she could.

She was a woman of immense faith, according to her daughter, Amy Reich. Her motto was “Don’t worry. Everything will all work out.”

Son-in-law Eugene Miller called her “a genuine 1950s mother.”

“We’re concerned because Grandpap doesn’t know how to make anything other than eggs,” he said.

“She wouldn’t let me do anything,” Mike Baumann said.

He recalled turning to his wife recently and saying, “We might live to be 90.”

“See how quick the Lord can knock the feet from under you?” he said. “It was not meant to be.”

He said he remembers the moment he met her as if it happened last week.

“It’s an old love story,” he said.

It was 1958. They were at a dance at the Cahill Rec Center in Locust Point; a band played. He saw her the moment he walked in. She wore a white gossamer dress with red bows.

“For me, it was love at first sight.”

They were together nearly 60 years.

“All she did was give. Give. Give. Give,” her husband said. “I didn’t deserve her.”

In the midst of his grieving, Mike Baumann read quotes from his wife’s Bible.

From Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one.”

From the gospel of John: “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Betty’s gone home, he said.

Reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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