Frances B. Hale, the kind-hearted secretary at the Church of the Redeemer Parish Day School whose duties ranged from planning school activities to listening to students and comforting them, died Dec. 4 of heart failure at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. She was 85.
"Frances was a jewel. She was the epitome of kindness, grace and hospitality to strangers, friends and family," said Jeffrey P. Ayres, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and a longtime communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. "She was so full of grace and was one of the real saints at Redeemer."
The former Frances Lee Baker was born in York, Pa., and was raised on the grounds of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer on Melrose Avenue, where her father, the Rev. Richard Henry Baker, was rector from 1931 to 1950. He was named coadjutor of the Diocese of North Carolina and later was installed as diocesan bishop. Her mother, Elizabeth Lee Small Baker, assisted him in his church work.
"Their house was where the 'new' church now resides, and some of the stone from the former rectory was used to build the new church in 1957-1958," said her daughter, Eleanor Hale "Ellee" Thompson of Cockeysville.
Mrs. Hale attended the Bryn Mawr School and graduated in 1946 from the Cathedral School in Washington. In 1950, she earned a bachelor's degree in religion from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
She married Walter Merryman Hale in 1950, and they settled in Rodgers Forge.
She went to work as a secretary at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. In 1961, she accepted the position as secretary of the Church of the Redeemer Parish Day School, where her duties were wide-ranging. In addition to arranging school activities and offering staff support, Mrs. Hale was there to soothe children who had scuffed their knees and to dry their tears when things went wrong.
"Our first encounter with Frances Hale was when our youngest son, Brendan, who was quite the hellcat, spent a lot of time in her office sitting in the time-out chair," said Mr. Ayres. "And she was always so nice and would listen to him."
"We were young, married in our 20s, and we all grew up together on Brandon Road in Rodgers Forge. We were best friends for many years, and it was Frances who drafted me to come to the Redeemer Day School, where I remained for 28 years. It was all her doing," said Jean Barry, a teacher who retired in 1992.
"She was a very dignified lady, and was so caring and so much fun," Mrs. Barry recalled. "Frances loved children, and that's why she got along with people at school. People often would come to her for advice. Everyone liked her."
"She was the embodiment of Small-timore because she was just a preacher's kid who knew so many people," said her daughter. "She really ran the place and had keys to everything."
Mrs. Hale retired in 1990 but remained an active church member at Redeemer, where she chaired the altar flower committee and particularly enjoyed decorating the church for Christmas. She also was a member of the hospitality committee and was the church's wedding hostess.
"She did this for decades, and lots of people got to know her on their wedding day," Mr. Ayres said.
Mrs. Hale lived for years on Kenmore Road in the Orchards neighborhood of North Baltimore, before moving to Broadmead in 2002.
She was an inveterate gardener and had been a member of the Cedarcroft Garden Club. She also had been a member of the Woman's Club of Roland Park and the Elkridge Club, where she enjoyed golfing. She also liked to travel.
Her husband, a retired official at First National Bank of Maryland, died in 2005.
A memorial service for Mrs. Hale will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at her church, 5603 N. Charles St.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Hale is survived by a son, Walter M. "Chip" Hale of Jarrettsville; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.