Whether serving lunch to fellow senior citizens or telling schoolchildren colorful tales about her childhood in Elkridge, 81-year-old Laura A. Simms was always in motion.
"Laura was known by everyone around," said Bessie Johnson, a neighbor of 40 years. "She was always on her feet."
Mrs. Simms died of an apparent heart attack at her home Monday.
Her unexpected death surprised friends and neighbors, who said Mrs. Simms had appeared to be in good health.
"I saw her walking to church Sunday," said Bessie Johnson, a neighbor who had known Mrs. Simms for 40 years. "For 81 years old, she was in remarkably good health."
Neighbors recalled Mrs. Simms as a gregarious, active woman who delighted local schoolchildren with tales of her childhood in Elkridge.
"She was very interesting to talk to," Mrs. Johnson said. "She could talk about how things had changed."
Elaine Flemion, manager of the Montgomery Road nutrition site where Mrs. Simms set tables, served food and cleaned up for eight years, recalled her as a survivor, who refused to let painful arthritis keep her from her volunteer work.
"She was very independent," she said. "She was very self-sufficient. She didn't want anybody helping her."
Mrs. Simms' daughter, Evelyn Watts of Baltimore, said her mother had an irregular heartbeat all her life.
For nearly 50 years, Mrs. Simms had worked as a housekeeper for numerous families in Elkridge.
On holidays, "Instead of saying prayers, she would sing 'Amazing Grace,' " said Mary Snodgrass, who once employed Mrs. Simms as a housekeeper. "She had a beautiful singing voice."
Calling hours will be Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Gaines A.M.E. Church. Mrs. Simms will be buried at Arbutus Memorial Park. Refreshments will be offered after services at Unity Baptist Church, where the Elkridge Nutrition Site is located.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Simms is survived by her sister, Ella Mae Sharbs of Arbutus; three stepdaughters: Lorraine Scott, Delores Kenney and Roberta Kirk, all of Baltimore City; 22 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren.