Bel Air's 'First Lady' Maryterese Streett dies at 81
By AEGIS STAFF REPORT
Aug 28, 2012 | 4:24 PM
Maryterese Streett, Bel Air's unofficial matriarch and historian and among its best known residents, died Saturday night at a hospice near Bel Air. She would have been 82 on Sept. 4.
Owners of Boyd & Fulford Drugs on Main Street, Mrs. Streett and her husband, M. Eugene Streett, became known to generations of Bel Air resident's as the town's First Couple. Under their ownership, Boyd and Fulford, which opened in 1892 and is the town's oldest business, became a place to go for everything from romantic and medical advice to news about all the comings and goings in the Harford County seat, not to mention who was doing what in local politics.
Viewings will be Wednesday and services will be Thursday.
"There weren't many people she didn't know and not much she didn't know about the town's history," her son, Jonathan Streett, of Fallston, said Monday.
"I used to say that before the Internet there were two ways to communicate: telecomm and teleMary," he said.
Mrs. Streett suffered a stroke in May, but had recovered well, her son said. The previous Sunday evening she had visited his family for dinner, but then suffered another stroke the following day and by the middle of the week had been moved to hospice care.
"How quickly things change," he said. "Sunday [Aug. 19] she was eating roast beef, drinking a beer and telling jokes. I felt she was back to 95 percent [from the earlier stroke]."
Maryterese Catherine Ryan Streett grew up in the Wilkes-Barre area of northeastern Pennsylvania and graduated from Misericordia College in Dallas, Pa. She moved to Bel Air at age 21 to take a job teaching English at Bel Air High School, which had moved to a new building on Heighe Street the previous year.
"At the time Harford schools were ranked second worst in the country," noted her son, who said his mother also brought a number of other teachers to the school, some of whom went on to become the core of the county school system's leadership in coming decades, as its academic standing also improved considerably.
Jonathan Streett said his mother taught English, art and history and developed a reputation for being able to handle the school's male miscreants, whom she believe acted up mostly to disguise that they couldn't read well.
"Her solution was to give them copies of the driver's ed manual and tell them to read it, because what 16-year-old boy isn't interested in getting his driver's license?" her son asked
Mrs. Streett and her husband were married July 30, 1952 and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last month. They bought Boyd & Fulford in 1963. At the time, Eugene Streett had been working at the store since he was 11. He is in his 71st year at the business, his son said.
With her husband and daughter-in-law, Audrey, usually working behind the pharmacy counter, Mrs. Streett greeted loyal customers and friends stopping into the store, always filling them in with the latest news.
Geoff Close, a former Bel Air mayor, said he has known the Streetts since he was named to the town board in 1974.
"She was a very good friend of mine," Close said Monday. "They were nice to me when I was on the Bel Air town board. I always enjoyed going into the town store."
Close said Mrs. Streett was a great asset to the community.
"She kept up with everything. When I was on the town board, she always reminded me of things that needed to be done," he said.
"They have been great for the Town of Bel Air. They have been great for Main Street," Close said of Mrs. Streett and her husband. "More than anything, that's their legacy. She has been great, great, great for Main Street."
"It's a great loss for Main Street, really, and I hope Gene is OK. I know he came in this morning," he added.
Joseph Snee Jr., whose law office is right next to Boyd and Fulford, said Mrs. Streett was a longtime family friend.
"I knew her through my father, Joseph Snee Sr., because both Mary and my dad come from Wilkes-Barre, Pa.," Snee said. His father and Mrs. Streett also both taught at Bel Air High School. Snee's father was able to get the job in the early '50s, he said, "in large part due to Mary's efforts."
Both Snee and Timothy Streett also went to St. Margaret's Elementary School together.
He called her the "unofficial mayor of Bel Air" because "everybody knew her and everybody liked her."
Snee remembered how Mrs. Streett would "greet me with a smile" when he was going into the store and "always had a kind word for everyone."
"Mary and that store, they're just iconic in the history of Bel Air," he said. "They [the Streetts] took over Boyd and Fulford and ran with it and, as a result, everybody knew them and the store."
Snee said he was sorry to hear of her passing, as Mrs. Streett was a "genuinely nice human being."
"In many respects," he said, "Bel Air will never be the same without her."
In an interview for a story about the business published in Harford Magazine in February, Mrs. Streett said: "We've had our ups and downs and a lot of competition. The best advice I've received is don't retire unless you have something you really want to do. My husband really wants to run this pharmacy."
Mrs. Streett was very involved in community affairs through her past involvement in the ladies' Inner Wheel of Rotary, and her family said she was very proud of her charity fundraising efforts and contribution as a 30-year docent at Liriodendron Mansion on Gordon Street in Bel Air.
The mansion, built in 1897, was given to Harford County in the early 1970s, as part of the Heavenly Waters Park acquisition by descendants of its original owner, Dr. Howard Kelly, one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital. There was, however, no plan to maintain or use the building until Mrs. Streett, who lived a block from "Lirio" as she often called the mansion, and a group of like-minded citizens banded together to form The Liriodendron Foundation with the aim of restoring and preserving the structure which was beginning to deteriorate.
The early foundation members, often led by Mrs. Streett, lobbied the Harford County executive and county council to replace the mansion's roof and make other repairs. The foundation also developed a successful plan with the county to use the mansion and grounds for art and photography exhibits and chamber music concerts, wedding receptions and private parties, small public and private meetings and a room honoring Dr. Kelly and his family. Almost 40 years later, Liriodendron is one of Harford's most popular venues for those activities.
Outside of the pharmacy, her family said Mrs. Streett's favorite pastimes were playing bridge with close friends every Thursday, getting away with her husband to Ocean City when they could, being a mother and grandmother and spending time in the company of family and friends.
In her addition to her husband and their son, Jonathan, Mrs. Streett is survived by three other sons, Timothy and Christopher Streett, both of Bel Air, and Eugene Streett, of Bradenton, Fla., and six grandchildren.
Her viewing will be Wednesday at McComas Funeral Home in Bel Air from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Thursday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Hickory beginning at 10 a.m. Burial will be in the family plot at Deer Creek United Methodist Church.