Kathryn H. 'Kitty' Gerling, banker whose career spanned more than six decades, dies

Kathryn H. “Kitty” Gerling, who worked her way from a teller’s window to become president of what is now Midstate Community Bank in Rodgers Forge and made community involvement its hallmark, died Sunday of congestive heart failure at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.
The longtime Guilford resident was 95.
“In a word, she had compassion for other people. Back in the day. when I started in 1971, the bank could do things for people they aren’t allowed to because of regulations today,” said her son, N. Alan Anthony, who is now chairman, CEO, president and director of Midstate Community Bank.
“She could read people and wanted to help them. That’s the way she did business, and she did it very well. That was a significant character trait in her life,” said Mr. Anthony, who lives in the Hampton neighborhood of Baltimore County.
“Kitty’s life was Midstate Bank, and she loved every moment of it,” said M. Thomas “Tom” Davis, a longtime director of the bank and a veteran sportscaster.
“All she wanted to do was lend money for mortgages and never did car loans. Her bank was an old-style savings and loan that took in money from the community and lent it out to the community,” Mr. Davis said.
The daughter of Roland Hurst, a Wise Bros. foreman, and Mary Brown Hurst, a homemaker, Kathryn Hurst was born in Baltimore and raised on Abell Avenue in Charles Village.
She was an Eastern High School and Strayers Business College graduate. After her marriage in the 1940s to Nelson Anthony ended in divorce, she went to work as a secretary at the Meyer Seed Co.
When she joined what was then Midstate Federal Savings and Loan Association in 1950 as a teller, there were only two others working at the bank: its president, Edward J. Baney, and another teller.
Midstate Community Bank traces its roots to the Druid Hill Perpetual Building Association, which was founded in 1884, and Govanstown Land, Loan and Building Association, which was formed in 1890. The two banks merged in 1940 to form Midstate Savings and Loan Association.
Mrs. Gerling rose through the ranks at the bank, serving as secretary until being named president in 1972. She was the first woman to head a bank in Maryland, said her daughter, Nancy L. Gerling, who is the bank’s vice president, secretary and a director, and a resident of the Hampton neighborhood of Baltimore County.
A 1981 profile of Mrs. Gerling in The Evening Sun described her as a “penny-pincher par excellence.”
“Even when I do grocery shopping, I have to do a budget, I have to think about everything,” she said in the article. “I’m sort of geared that way.”
Mrs. Gerling eschewed gimmicks, giveaways or services in order to attract customers.
In the 1970s, when the bank was located at York Road and Homeland Avenue in Govans, the area was undergoing dramatic change as merchants moved away and trade dropped off.
“Frankly, we were dying,” said her daughter.
“In 1976 the federal examiners came in, looked at our papers and said, ‘You’re not showing any growth, why don’t you think about merging?’” Mrs. Gerling said in the 1981 article, adding that she resisted their suggestion.
In order to attract depositors, she dropped the bank’s federal charter in 1977 with its obligatory 5.25 percent interest rate, and became a state chartered bank.
“I chose to pay 6 percent,” Mrs. Gerling said in 1981. “Under the Maryland charter, there was no ceiling, and I figured Midstate could comfortably pay its customers the extra three-fourths of a percent — and I’d rather pay that to the customers than to the government in tax.”
She struck another bold move when she decided to move the bank three miles north to a new home in the 6800 block of York Road.
“She bought an old Getty gas station and the whole block in 1977,” Mr. Davis said.
The new building that opened in November 1979 was airy, functional and far from pretentious.
“I wanted a building that would portray a nice image but that was within our budget,” she said in the 1981 article.
During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, the bank returned to a federal charter, and in 2012 reverted back to a state-chartered bank.
Mrs. Gerling stated her banking philosophy in the 1981 interview.
“I believe in strong reserves and liquidity; we’re an unsophisticated association with a conservative board,” she said. “Not being able to make a mortgage loan to me is like being in the grocery business and not being able to sell anything off the shelves.”
She added that she operated the bank on a budget, and if there was no cash on hand, Midstate made no loans, because she refused to dip into reserves.
“The bank was and is conservative in its business dealings, and does not make risky loans,” Mr. Anthony said.
“She was a people person first off, she loved people and they loved her,” Mr. Davis said. “She had a feel for people and the community and could size up a person in 5 minutes, and she’d know whether they were a good person to loan money to or not.”
Mrs. Gerling deliberately wanted to stay small and remain community-oriented.
“That’s why she admired Graul’s and Eddie’s because they were community places,” Mr. Davis said. “She was satisfied serving the community and not being part of a national chain.”
During Mrs. Gerling’s tenure, the bank’s assets increased from $1 million to $186 million by the time of her retirement in 2012 at the age of 91.
Her favorite day, family members said, was the Friday before Christmas when she hosted an annual Christmas party in the bank’s lobby for clients and friends.
A Guilford resident since 1962, Mrs. Gerling, an avid Orioles fan, used to walk to games at nearby Memorial Stadium. She also enjoyed cruises, dancing and family dinners.
Her husband of 33 years, Willard Spickerman “Bill” Gerling, an official with the Maryland Savings-Share Insurance Corp., died in 1988.
She was a member of St. Andrew’s Christian Community, 5802 Roland Ave., where services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
In addition to her son and daughter, she is survived by a brother, Thomas L. Hurst of Homeland; and three grandchildren. Another daughter, Suzanne L. Anthony, died in 1982.

 frasmussen@baltsun.com

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