Margaret E. Faya, a retired medical records supervisor at Spring Grove Hospital Center, died June 21 of complications of an infection at Howard County General Hospital. The Columbia resident was 91.
Born Mary Elizabeth Burkman in Baltimore, she grew up on North Rose Street in East Baltimore. In an autobiographical sketch, she recalled her childhood as the daughter of a father who worked in the seafood industry shucking oysters. Her mother sewed buttons on men's shirts at the Aetna shirt factory. On hot summer nights, she slept outdoors in Patterson Park. She earned spending money washing a neighbor's marble steps.
She attended Patterson Park High School, but left the classroom at 16 to work at the old Crosse and Blackwell foods plant on Eastern Avenue. She completed high school at night at City College in 1939.
"I worked on the side of a barrel labeled pickles," she wrote in the sketch. "Every so often when we left at the end of the day we got all the dented cans."
She recalled that when she was 17, she heard the old Pennsylvania Railroad was hiring.
"When I went with a number of others to be interviewed the boss looked at our hands to see if they were clean and strong," she said. "By this time I was a strawberry blonde and I was hired and promoted to an office job. I answered the phone and got asked out on a lot of dates. Every morning our hands were inspected. They had to be clean in order to handle the railroad shipping documents."
She recalled that because she was not yet 18, she had to get a note from her mother allowing her to go on out-of-state business trips.
"At the railroad we were given free train passes and on Saturdays after work my friends and I would get dressed up and go to New York City," she wrote.
While working at the old President Street Station in what is now Harbor East, she met her future husband, Sherby William Faya, also a railroad worker, who was her supervisor.
In 1943, during World War II, she traveled to Rapid City, S.D., where she married in a small ceremony while her husband was in the Army's Air Corps. During that period, she joined the Ladies Auxiliary of the Doyle-Dickey Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Catonsville. Mrs. Faya served in leadership positions with the group and was its president on several occasions.
She and her husband lived for many years on Stoney Lane in Catonsville. She worked at Baltimore Envelope and Hutzler's Westview and retired in 1981 after 25 years as a state of Maryland employee. She was medical records supervisor at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville.
In retirement, she realized a long-held dream of working as a librarian when she was employed as a circulation assistant at the Baltimore County Public Library's Catonsville branch, family members said. She used the skills and knowledge she gained in that position to set up the library at the Catonsville Senior Center.
"She was always a great reader," said her daughter, Rosemary Faya Prola of Columbia. "And she liked meeting and helping people. She liked to help them solve problems. It was a perfect job for her."
Mrs. Faya was a former member of St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church and had been parish council secretary.
About 20 years ago, she began taking courses at the Catonsville Senior Center and recorded memories of her youth in East Baltimore and of family life.
When she was 80, she moved from Catonsville to the Park View at Columbia senior apartment complex. She was an active member of the apartment's residents council, serving for a time on the executive committee as recording secretary. She also contributed to the monthly newsletter.
A Mass of Christian burial was offered June 24 at St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Columbia.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include two sons, Richard W. Faya of Thurmont and Michael S. Faya of Roanoke, Va.; six grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren. Her husband of 38 years died in 1981.