Anne Bradford Grafflin was born in Baltimore and spent her early years on Wilson Street in Bolton Hill, before moving in 1934 to the Dixon Hill neighborhood in Mount Washington.
After graduating from Western High School in 1945, she attended Baltimore Business College and later that year went to work as a mail sorter in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's downtown freight office.
She then took a job in Washington working for National Geographic while living in an N Street Northwest boardinghouse.
She returned to Baltimore in 1947, when she was hired by the Standard Oil Co., whose offices were then on St. Paul Place.
"Her job was sending postcards to people who had gone 1,000 miles or more, reminding them that it was time for an Esso lubrication job," said her son, John R. Karlsen of Rodgers Forge.
In 1951, she enrolled at the old Hospital for the Women of Maryland in Bolton Hill, where she trained as a nurse. She also did additional training at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
After graduating from the Hospital for the Women in 1954, she continued working there in obstetrics until joining the nursing staff of the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Wyman Park, where she was a medical nurse and later was assigned to a medical surgical unit.
While at the public health hospital, she met and fell in love with a patient, Leif Karlsen, a ship's radio operator, whom she married in 1956. The couple later divorced.
While her husband was at sea, Mrs. Karlsen moved to New York City in 1956, where she was a surgical nurse at St. Luke's Hospital.
A year later, she returned to the Hospital for the Women of Maryland, where she worked for the next two years in the nursery. From 1959 to 1960, she cared for children at the Happy Hills Convalescent Home for Children in Northwest Baltimore.
In 1966, Mrs. Karlsen took a job as a private-duty nurse working in home care for a family in Orleans, Mass. She worked there for two years before returning to Baltimore in 1968.
Mrs. Karlsen, a longtime resident of Murdock Road in Rodgers Forge, worked as a nurse for the Baltimore County Health Department from 1973 until retiring in 1988.
She was on duty Jan. 4, 1987, when Amtrak's northbound Colonial collided with several stalled Conrail locomotives in Chase, resulting in the deaths of 16 people.
For her work, Mrs. Karlsen earned an award from the American Red Cross.
"She did not talk about it much. She was very modest about what she did. It was a very difficult time," her son said. "She worked helping the neighbors in Chase who were overcome at seeing bodies and body parts."
"Anne was always highly regarded, and doctors always had great respect for her abilities," said George W. Gephart, a cousin who is retired from Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.
"She was hardworking, honest and straight as an arrow," he said. "She was just a very kind and outgoing person."
Mrs. Karlsen was a woman of wide-ranging interests. She was an accomplished sketch artist and enjoyed listening to classical music — especially Bach and Chopin — and playing the piano.
She was an avid follower of politics and liked attending plays at the Everyman Theatre and movies at the Charles, and reading mysteries.
Mrs. Karlsen was her family's historian and genealogist, and a lifelong student of English and grammar.
"When it came to our family genealogy, she always kept me straight, and could go way, way back with our Grafflin family history," said Mr. Gephart with a laugh. "And she always remembered everyone's birthday with a card or she'd give them a honk on the phone."
She had been an active member of the Women's Eastern Shore Society of Maryland.
Mrs. Karlsen had been a communicant of St. John's Episcopal Church in Mount Washington. In recent years, she attended services at St. Stephen's Traditional Episcopal Church, 11856 Mays Chapel Road, Lutherville, where a memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. April 12.
Mrs. Karlsen is survived by another son, Leif K. Karlsen of Baltimore; and three grandchildren. A son, Erik Karlsen, died in 2002.