Frances G. Bell, who was considered an expert on the history of the village of Kingsville, where she lived her entire life, died Sunday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. She was 91.
The daughter of Frank C. Goettner, a Baltimore County Health Department worker, and Pauline Goettner, a seamstress, Frances Goettner was born in a second-floor bedroom of the Kingsville Inn, which had been owned by her grandparents. Today, the former hostelry in the 11700 block of Belair Road is a funeral home.
"Throughout her life, she never lived more than a mile radius from where she was born," said her daughter, Janet Hanna of Huntingdon, Pa.
"Henry Ford once purchased a stagecoach, the Kearsarge, from her grandfather," said her daughter. "At a later date, the coach was transported back to Kingsville for use in a parade. It remains on display today at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich."
When Mrs. Bell was 6 years old, she moved to a home two blocks away from the inn on Belair Road, where she grew up, her daughter said.
Mrs. Bell was a 1940 graduate of Kenwood High School and worked at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River during World War II. She later worked as a secretary to several generals at Edgewood Arsenal.
In 1947, she married Jarrett Standiford Bell, who was the Kingsville postmaster. He died in 1978.
Mrs. Bell, who had lived in the same home on Goettner Road since 1951, was "thought to be the oldest living resident of Kingsville and was frequently consulted on the history of Kingsville and Upper Falls," said Mrs. Hanna. "She was a Kingsville icon."
She was a charter member of the Friends of Jerusalem Mill, which was founded in 1985. Its mission was to restore the historic Jerusalem Mill, which was built on the banks of Little Gunpowder Falls in 1772, and the surrounding Quaker village.
The flour mill was built by Isaiah Linton, a millwright, and David Lee, a miller, who were both Quakers from Bucks County, Pa. It operated continually until 1961.
"She was a great lady. She was my Sunday school teacher in 1946, so we go back a long way," said Harry J. Sanders, a Long & Foster real estate agent and retired teacher, who established Friends of Jerusalem Mill.
"She had been a wonderful benefactor to the mill and had been on the board for years. She always hosted our annual meeting at the Maryland Golf and Country Club, of which she had been a charter member," he said. "She was also involved with the historic house tour, which benefited the mill. There were not too many things in Kingsville that she had not touched."
"Frances was always a great friend of the community. She was always very friendly in supporting the community and volunteering her time," said Ken Holt, a retired Morgan Stanley Smith Barney executive and a Republican former state delegate and candidate in 2010 for Baltimore County executive.
"She was also involved in the Greater Kingsville Association, a community-based organization, and she made sure that everything was taken care of, from parks ... to traffic signals," said Mr. Holt.
"Frances was always behind those initiatives that were designed to help the community. She did a lot of good and was an unspoken hero and not a grandstander. That's the way she lived her life," he said. "She was dignified, generous, and a good listener. She had a caring side and was always willing to do things for people."
A lifelong Republican, Mrs. Bell was active in the campaign of her childhood friend, the late Judge C. Stanley Blair, who rose to become Maryland's secretary of state and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew's chief of staff. He later was a federal District Court judge for Maryland.
She also worked in campaigns of Helen Delich Bentley and Mr. Holt.
"Frances was a very good Republican who worked hard to help Maryland become a two-party state. She expended a lot of energy on Mr. Blair's and my campaign," said Mrs. Bentley, the former congresswoman and chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. "Her dedication was unsurpassed."
Mrs. Bell was an inveterate collector of antiques, particularly vintage glassware, and items related to Eastern Shore waterfowl.
"Oh, I've known her for nearly 90 years, and she was a nice gal," said Louise "Pete" Clarke, the owner of Pete's Pickins, the Upper Falls antiques store where Mrs. Bell found many of her treasures.
"She has been a customer of mine for years and liked small things and especially liked collecting pressed glass," said Mrs. Clarke. "She was always very knowledgeable about all of the old families in Kingsville."
Mrs. Bell was a member of the Bush River Yacht Club, the Kingsville Garden Club, the Inner Wheel of the Kingsville Rotary Club, and the Alpha Ro Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi.
She was a longtime member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, where she was a Sunday school teacher and sang in the church choir.
Funeral services for Mrs. Bell will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at her church, 12022 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Bell is survived by three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.