Margaret Cecelia Zimmerman, a member of one of the oldest families in Towson who was an accomplished family seamstress, died of complications from gastric disease and hypertension Jan. 3 at Manor Care Ruxton. The North Baltimore resident was 101.
Born Margaret Cecelia Bosley, she was the daughter of Aquilla Cardiff Tagert Bosley, a house painter whose family owned and operated Bosley's Hotel, a structure that once stood on the site of the old Hutzler's Towson department store. Her mother, Maria Eliza Hahn, had worked in a family dry-goods store in the old Towson business district. It was across York Road from Bosley's Hotel.
"I believe that my mother inherited her knowledge and interest in dressmaking from her own mother," said her son, Robert A. Zimmerman, with whom she lived for the past decade.
Mrs. Zimmerman was born at home, which also included a working farm, on Stevenson Lane near the present Country Club of Maryland. She was the fifth of 12 children and walked to the old Towson Elementary School on Allegheny Avenue.
She was baptized, confirmed and married at Trinity Episcopal Church, also on Allegheny Avenue. She also served as the choir mother of the church's Sunday school choir and washed and ironed their cassocks and surplices.
She left school while in her teens and assisted her mother in running the family's extended household.
"That's how she learned her domestic skills," her son said. "She became a good cook, and throughout her life she was ready to help others as they became sick or aged. She naturally took care of people."
Her son said she baked her own bread in a wood-burning stove at the Stevenson Lane family home and later in a gas stove at a home on West Joppa Road near the Bosley Hotel.
"She told me how neighbors would drop by for a piece of her bread and that on the weekends, there were 20 or more people at the table for Sunday dinner," her son said.
Mrs. Zimmerman also worked as a helper for a family in Ruxton. But when an undisciplined child threw an iron toy at her, she quit the post.
In the mid-1930s, while at a dance at the Dixie Ballroom in Gwynn Oak Park, she met her future husband, Clifton Clarkson Zimmerman, who was then delivering heating oil for an uncle. He later became a Baltimore County firefighter.
Her husband rode a motorcycle, though she did not like riding with him. She did pose on the bike for a photographer.
As a young bride, she lived in Granite and on Providence Road. She also cared for her ailing father before moving to a home on Susquehanna Avenue near the old Baltimore County jail. The county government later purchased her house to widen Bosley Avenue, the thoroughfare named for one of her ancestors. She and her husband then moved to Carney.
Mrs. Zimmerman made all her own clothes until she was in her 90s. She also tailored her wool winter coats and jackets and hand-bound their buttonholes. She made the evening gowns she wore to social events held by the Boumi Temple, where her husband was a member of the Masonic order. She was influenced by the designers Halston and Geoffrey Beene.
"She wasn't afraid about facing a challenge," said her son, the former designer of exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
In the evening, she made dozens of afghan blankets that she gave as wedding or baby gifts.
About 40 years ago, Mrs. Zimmerman began her annual tradition of making Christmas fruitcakes. As the designated family caregiver, she nursed and kept house for other members and had little time for holiday shopping. She remained at home and in early October began laying in the candied fruits, nuts and brandy for the cakes she wrapped in cheesecloth. She made about 100 pounds of fruitcake each year.
She continued her domestic routines until she was 94. She also attended church services regularly. She spent her 100th Christmas at Trinity Towson's midnight Mass.
Nearly 12 years ago, Mrs. Zimmerman decided to endow a memorial family scholarship at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Church, 120 W. Allegheny Ave.
In addition to her son, survivors include nieces and nephews. Her husband of 64 years died in 2001.