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Minnie Hargrow, assistant to Johns Hopkins presidents, dies

Minnie Hargrow, who in her 60 years at Johns Hopkins University rose from a cafeteria worker to an assistant to the president, died of heart disease Jan. 19 at her daughter’s Milford Mill home.

She was 96 and had lived on Lauretta Avenue in West Baltimore.

“There was never a more unfailingly friendly, cheerful and supportive person,” said Hopkins spokesman Dennis O’Shea. “She always made you feel good about yourself.”

"Miss Minnie was the heart and soul of Hopkins," said William Brody, the former Hopkins president who worked with Mrs. Hargrow.

In a statement, he added that she “embodied the spirit of the school — she knew everybody, and everybody knew her. For me, she was an informal adviser and a great friend. She had seen Hopkins through the years, and she was one of the people who made Hopkins such a special place."

Born on a farm in Kinston, N.C., she was the daughter of Alonzo Lovick and his wife, Laura.

She moved to Baltimore after her husband, Jesse Hargrow, left military service during World War II. According to Hopkins records, Mrs. Hargrow joined Johns Hopkins as a cafeteria worker on Oct. 1, 1946. She retired in 2007.

She began work at the school’s Levering Hall and initially took buses and streetcars to get to its kitchen. She later bought a car and began picking up fellow workers — and giving them early morning wake-up calls — so they could arrive at the Homewood campus to serve students’ breakfast.

She worked 34 years in the cafeteria, with 25 years as its head supervisor.

“She had the great gift of good sense. She had a clear notion of what was right and what was wrong,” said Ross Jones, a retired Hopkins vice president and university secretary. “She nearly always was in good humor but when she heard about something, or saw something, that wasn't right and did not measure up to her high ethical standards, she could get fired up, leaving no doubt about her position on the matter.”

“She lived very much in the present, but she was unhappy with the relaxed dress code of today's students,” Mr. Jones said. “She said she wished the male students dressed like they did when she came to the university in the mid-1940s. ‘Those young men looked real fine with their shirts and ties and jackets,’ she used to say.”

According to her Johns Hopkins colleagues, a president's office staff manager inquired in 1981 if Mrs. Hargrow knew anyone in dining services who could replace the retiring assistant to the president.

"Yeah — me," she answered. She was hired within two hours, her colleagues said.

She served four university presidents: Steven Muller, Bill Richardson, Daniel Nathans, and Dr. Brody.

“She was extremely comfortable working with Hopkins presidents — four of them while they were in office, and [former university president] Milton Eisenhower after he had retired,” said Mr. Jones. “I always thought that her warm and gracious spirit set the tone for the president's office and put guests, especially, at ease.”

"It's like a family here," she said in a Johns Hopkins publication at the time of her retirement. "I enjoy everybody. It's always been a pleasure to come into the office every morning."

Mrs. Hargrow worked for a while alongside her daughter in the president’s office when a receptionist’s position opened.

“Between her and the Good Lord, I got that job when I was laid off from Commercial Credit,” said her daughter, Brenda Brockman, with whom she lived.

Until she retired in 2007, Mrs. Hargrow continued to pick up cafeteria workers and arrived at campus early — even though her work day began later.

“She was the matriarch of the family,” said her nephew, Jerome Vinick of Owings Mills. “She would organize the family in reunions. She would come up with ideas and plans and then assign them. She was the one who delegates.… She had a lot of wisdom.”

He recalled how Mrs. Hargrow loved life. “She would often say, ‘Give me my flowers while I’m living,’” he said.

Mrs. Hargrow was a community volunteer. She received a citation from Johns Hopkins at the university’s 1993 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration for her dedication to the Homewood campus. She also volunteered at the United Way, Meals on Wheels, and at the Future Care Lochearn nursing home, where she brought patients their favorite candy or fruit. She also spent time visiting and chatting with them.

Her nephew said she loved to travel and ran an informal, part-time travel business. She took more than 30 cruises — and never got seasick. She had visited South America, Jerusalem and other destinations.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Cornerstone Church of Christ, 4239 Park Heights Avenue, where she was a deaconess.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a granddaughter, Monica Brockman of Milford Mill; three great-grandchildren; and 10 great-great-grandchildren. Her marriage to Jesse Hargrow ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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