Mary Aitken, a retired switchboard operator who taught music in Baltimore public schools, died of Alzheimer's disease March 28 at her home in the Ridervale section of Riderwood in Baltimore County. She was 89.
Born Mary Wootsey Derr in Roanoke, Va., she was raised in Norfolk, Va., and graduated from Maury High School in 1946.
She moved to Baltimore and earned a teacher's degree in voice at the Peabody Conservatory in 1950. There she met her husband, Richard Aitken, a jazz pianist who played at the Prime Rib and the old Eager House.
She worked as the switchboard operator for Welsh Construction Co. in the 1960s and taught music in Baltimore public schools. She was assigned to schools in Hampden and Curtis Bay.
"She loved her students because they were so appreciative of her," said her son, R. Randolph Aitken of Ridervale.
She joined the Baltimore branch of the National Cash Register Corp. in downtown Baltimore and was a front desk switchboard operator for 18 years before retiring in 1988.
Mrs. Aitken was a Bolton Hill resident between 1960 and 1975. She then moved to Ridervale.
She was a member of the Carter Braxton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for many years.
"She was known for her sense of humor, infectious laughter, singing and her lifelong gift for playing the piano by ear," her son said.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, St. Paul Street and University Parkway, where she was a communicant.
In addition to her son, survivors include a brother, Rush Derr of Virginia Beach, Va. Her husband of more than 40 years died in 1996.
An earlier version of this story misspelled Mrs. Aitken's name. The Sun regrets the error.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun