Hedy Hill, a stockbroker who led a successful effort to save the Woman's Industrial Exchange in the late 1990s, died of complications from an infection Sunday at Manor Care Ruxton. The Timonium resident was 69.
Born Margaret Hedy van Reuth in Baltimore and raised in the Belvedere Square area, she was the daughter of Arthur van Reuth, an engineer, and the former Margaret Opitz, a volunteer. She was a 1960 Eastern High School graduate and earned a degree in business at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority.
In the 1960s, she joined the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., where she had worked summers.
"She had an interest in stocks that she had picked up from her father," said her husband, James P. Hill Jr. "One day, while on a bus, she was talking to a friend who worked in the investment industry. He said, 'Have you ever thought about selling stocks?'"
She followed his advice and became a broker at Eastman Dillon Union Securities, and in the mid-1970s joined the old Alex. Brown & Sons. Friends said she joined the firm when there were few female stockbrokers in Baltimore.
"She was hard-working and very personable," said Thomas "Tim" Schweizer Jr., the former manager of Alex. Brown's Baltimore office, who lives in Brooklandville.
She later joined Chapin Davis Investment in Cross Keys, where she worked until her death.
"She had an unselfish, bubbling personality," said Bruce Alderman, the firm's president. "She would often socialize with her clients and they loved her."
He said that Mrs. Hill was knowledgeable about financial markets.
"At meetings here, she asked pertinent questions that made you think," Mr. Alderman said.
Mrs. Hill, who was active in the Junior League, was president of the board of managers of Baltimore's Woman's Industrial Exchange. In 1997, the Charles Street nonprofit organization announced it was in severe financial distress. Colleagues said she rallied the organization to find ways to keep it afloat.
"She was devoted to the place and did not want to see it go under," said a former Exchange employee, Diane Coleman, who lives in Baltimore. "There were those who wanted to move it to the suburbs. Hedy didn't like that idea and pulled a group of women together."
Ms. Coleman said that one of her first actions was to hold a fundraiser she named "A Damsel in Distress." The event publicized the Exchange's troubles and set it on the road to recovery.
"None of us really knew what we were doing," Ms. Coleman said. "But Hedy was the inspiration for getting new blood and new ideas and making a big change. She was gracious and had a good sense of humor."
Ms. Coleman said Mrs. Hill took much of the summer of 1997 off and devoted her energies toward solving the immediate problems facing the Charles Street building that houses the Exchange. She and other volunteers closed it down and cleaned it thoroughly. They also considered strategies for upgrading its aging physical plant.
"Today is a day when I thank the 12 women who founded the Exchange 115 years ago," she said in a Baltimore Sun article when the place reopened in 1997, before a subsequent major rehabilitation of the building at Charles and Pleasant streets in downtown Baltimore.
"While we are restructuring and being more innovative, we have to think of all the women who worked so long to make us a success," she said.
The Sun's account said that as part of its plan to reorganize, the exchange's board of managers made a plea for contributions to help their institution, chartered in 1882 to help women who wanted a place to sell their embroidered handwork and other hand-sewn items.
Mrs. Hill later left the board, and in 2003 the building reopened after a $2 million refurbishment.
She was a Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League and competed in its tournaments. She also belonged to the Woman's Club of Roland Park and the Baltimore Country Club.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. David's Episcopal Church, 4700 Roland Ave.
In addition to her husband of 35 years, survivors include a son, J. Pearson Hill III of Cockeysville; and a sister, Linda A. van Reuth of Ruxton.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun