Baltimore neighborhood mourns slain 'Avon Lady' Woman, 61, killed by a stolen car


Gladys Hoffman was a familiar sight on the streets of Southwest Baltimore. Her arms usually laden with Avon products, order forms bulging from her pockets, she seemed incapable of passing anyone without speaking -- and not necessarily about Avon.

She worked at least six days a week and put in a minimum of nine hours each day as the "Avon Lady." Then she'd go home and play with the neighborhood children.

"That's just the way she was. She was just a wonderful person who enjoyed both her life and her work," Thomas Goiner, who lived near Ms. Hoffman in the 500 block of S. Smallwood St., said yesterday. "She'll be missed."

Ms. Hoffman, 61, was killed at a crosswalk in the 2000 block of Wilkens Ave. by a speeding stolen car shortly after 6 p.m. Friday. Two teen-agers were in the vehicle, police said.

The 1991 Honda was westbound on Wilkens Avenue when it struck Ms. Hoffman at the intersection with Smallwood Street, about a block from her home, police said. The force of the collision carried Ms. Hoffman several yards and severed one of her legs. She was dead at the scene.

The car, stolen in Rockville earlier in the day, continued for about one-tenth of a mile before it jumped the median strip and hit two oncoming vehicles in the eastbound lane, police said. Both youths jumped from the car and ran but were arrested shortly after the incident.

Vincent Paul Brooks Jr., 18, of the 1600 block of N. Fulton Ave., was arrested in a second-floor bedroom of a house in the 2500 block of Hollins St., about six blocks from the accident. Charged with auto theft, automobile manslaughter and burglary, he was being held yesterday at the southwestern police lockup on $150,000 bail, according to Agent Doug Price, a city police spokesman.

The 17-year-old passenger in the car was charged as a juvenile with unauthorized use of a vehicle. More charges are pending, Agent Price said.

Harvey Childers, 38, who lives in the 2100 block of Wilkens Ave., said he was getting into his car on the north side of Wilkens Avenue when the stolen car zipped by, followed by a police car also at a high speed.

"They both came flying by and I had to get close to my car so I wouldn't get hit," Mr. Childers said.

Agent Price said police vehicles were not chasing the stolen car, and that the only chase was a foot pursuit when the youths bailed out.

Michael P. Riley, 26, Ms. Hoffman's nephew, said his aunt did not drive, but walked to the homes of all of her customers.

"Aunt Glad never got tired, it seemed. She enjoyed it. She just enjoyed working with people," Mr. Riley said.

Since her death, he said, numerous friends have called to express condolences -- as well as inquire about their Avon orders.

"It's hard to describe. It's hard to imagine someone who cared so much about people like she did," Mr. Riley said. "The way she died was such a vicious, brutal way to die. A lot of people just can't understand it."

Ms. Hoffman never married and lived alone in the Smallwood Street rowhouse she moved into in the early 1950s. She enjoyed professional baseball and attended All-Star FanFest in July.

In the basement of the modest two-story brick dwelling yesterday, cases of Avon perfumes, lotions and creams lined the shelves and floor. Mr. Riley said many of the products have already been purchased by customers. His aunt had planned to deliver them soon.

As he stood in the rain yesterday, at the spot where his aunt was hit, Mr. Riley wondered why she had to die. "She didn't deserve this. She never did nothing to anybody. To die like this, I just can't see it."

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