Sarah W. McCardell, a Govans homemaker who happily cared for her 10 children while teaching them lasting values and enduring life lessons that she imparted with love, humor and grace, died Friday of a stroke at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. She was 89.
"My mother was a wonderful person, and I feel it was fortunate that we had my parents living with us. She was not just my mother, but one of my best friends," said a daughter, Margaret Ellen Clemmens of Stoneleigh.
"She had so much spirit and was a wonderful and caring person who was very close to her family," she said. "Her family was her life. She always made us feel special and had a lot of spunk, and she had that sense of spunk until the end."
The daughter of a physician, Dr. Harry Eugene Wilson, and a homemaker, Angela Pauline Kehoe Wilson, the former Sarah Virginia Wilson was born in Baltimore and raised in a rowhouse at 3 W. Biddle St.
She attended Notre Dame Preparatory School and the Bard-Avon School in downtown Baltimore. In the late 1940s, she worked as a sales associate and comparison shopper at Hutzler's department store.
While working at the Isaac Moss Florist on Charles Street during high school, she met her future husband, Walter Miller McCardell Jr., who also worked there delivering flowers.
"We worked there part-time on weekends. I worked at the greenhouse on Bellona and Gittings avenue and would go downtown to the shop which was near the Belvedere Hotel to deliver flowers," said Mr. McCardell.
"And here was this pretty little girl and I gave her a Hershey bar. On our 63rd wedding anniversary this past September, she gave me a Hershey bar that said 'I Love You,'" he said.
After dating for seven years, the couple married in 1950 and lived for years in the 2800 block of Guilford Ave. before moving in 1969 to a home on Bellona Avenue in Govans.
Mrs. McCardell — who had eight girls and two sons — had her first child in 1951 and her last in 1969.
When it came to dealing with her close-knit family, Mrs. McCardell exuded an unflappability and calm under pressure.
"She treated the girls and boys equally. They cut the grass while me and my brother washed dishes and hung the clothes on the line," said a son, Paul McCardell, a Baltimore Sun researcher who lives in Columbia. "And she taught us to be independent, take care of each other and look out for one another. That was very important to her."
Mrs. McCardell's husband worked as a photographer for The Baltimore Sun from 1946 until retiring in 1990.
"Because he worked for the newspaper, my father always worked long hours, so a lot of the child rearing was left to my mother," said her son. "She had so many kids but she always made time for them individually. We always had our special moments with her."
"Mom's sense of humor and quick wit kept our family laughing. She was the taskmaster, always keeping us busy," recalled Mrs. Clemmens. "She was very kind and giving, putting other's needs first. She taught us to help and respect others."
"She had a great sense of humor and always had a quick remark," her husband said.
Mrs. McCardell was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church.
Even after her own children were grown, Mrs. McCardell continued caring for children.
"She always had children in our home and enjoyed caring for her grandchildren and neighbors' children," her son said.
Mrs. McCardell also enjoyed cooking for family and friends.
She and her husband had lived with their daughter and son-in-law in Stoneleigh for the last several years.
"She was a great cook and made an awesome lobster Newburg, spaghetti and beef barbecue. They were my favorites. I had never had lobster Newburg until I met her," said Jim Clemmens, a son-in-law who lives in Stoneleigh.
"She also had a fantastic sense of humor and always kept me on my toes. We had lots of laughs through the years," said Mr. Clemmens. "I feel very fortunate that we had 21/2 years together under the same roof and we formed a special bond."
Mrs. McCardell was a lifelong swimmer and in her youth sailed. She enjoyed spending summers at the family's cottage at Bembe Beach near Annapolis.
Mrs. McCardell and her husband enjoyed attending church suppers.
Mrs. McCardell was a communicant for many years of St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 5500 York Road, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday.
In addition to her husband, son and daughter, Mrs. McCardell is survived by another son, Walter Miller McCardell III of Annapolis; six other daughters, Mary Angela Creshker of Austin, Patricia Agnes Moore of Delta, Pa., Carol Anne Clemmens of Sherwood Forest, Susan Elizabeth McCardell, Virginia Laurie Spurrier and Kathleen Amelia Pletcher, all of Baltimore; a brother, Dr. Henry B. Wilson of Baltimore; 21 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Sarah "Sally" McCardell Polen, died in 1986.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun