For two years, Edna Belle Hutchison was a fixture in the neighborhood around the state Motor Vehicle Administration office in Glen Burnie. Ms. Hutchinson showed up rain, sleet or snow.
"She'd just walk around the building, or she might come up and ask you for a cigarette or a quarter," said Bonnie Hostler, 42, an MVA clerk.
As Ms. Hostler headed in to work yesterday, a radio newscast piqued her interest: A woman had been struck and killed Tuesday by an Anne Arundel County dump truck at the Texaco station on Ritchie Highway, across from the MVA.
Ms. Hostler said, "I wondered if that's the little old lady that wanders around, and sure enough, it was."
Ms. Hutchison, nicknamed "Bernadette the MVA lady" because she once told state employees that her first name was Bernadette, was killed as she made her way from a Giant supermarket across the Texaco lot, carrying a Diet Coke and a can of Spam in a small bag.
"It broke our hearts, I'll tell you," said Linda Purper, 47, of Glen Burnie, an MVA customer service representative. "It was a shock."
Ms. Hutchison, 53, who was about 5 feet tall, was a client of Omni House, a community-based program for the mentally ill, county police Officer Brownlow Mullins said.
She lived in the 100 block of Water Fountain Way at Cromwell Fountain Condominiums, just behind the MVA building.
The accident occurred about 3:45 p.m. near Ordnance Road.
The truck driver, Donald Conway, 39, of the 600 block of Waugh Chapel Road in Odenton, had just dropped off a load of corrugated cardboard at a Baltimore recycling plant and was returning to the Glen Burnie Convenience Center, a drop-off point for recycled material, on Dover Road, Officer Mullins said.
As the 20-year county employee left the Beltway in Glen Burnie, his truck hit a bump, popping open his tool box, police said. He stopped at the Texaco station to fix the box, then waited for the traffic light to turn green, Officer Brownlow said.
Police think Mr. Conway didn't see the tiny woman in his path or feel the impact as he pulled the 10-wheel truck out of the station and headed south on Ritchie Highway.
"You would need to be at least six feet to the front of the top of the truck before you could see the top of a head," said Officer Brownlow. "She was much too close to the truck to be seen."
Witnesses found Ms. Hutchison as soon as the truck pulled away. She was taken to North Arundel Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Her son, Ricky Hutchison of Martinsburg, W.Va., was on his way to Maryland yesterday afternoon.
Officer Brownlow said Mr. Conway has driven a county truck for 15 years and has spent all but two of those years behind the wheel of the truck he drove Tuesday. His work driving record is clean.
No charges have been filed against Mr. Conway, police said.
The state's attorney's office must review the police report first, which is expected to take a week.
An Omni House employee declined to comment.
Yesterday, Ms. Hutchison's friends at the MVA and Denny's restaurant, where she occasionally ate, remembered her fondly.
The women at the MVA sat outdoors smoking cigarettes on a bench where Ms. Hutchison often greeted them.
Last Christmas, five of the employees bought Ms. Hutchison a royal blue woolen scarf, a hat and gloves, red earmuffs, a two-pound canned ham and a carton of cigarettes.
Ms. Hutchison, who walked in a stooped shuffle and never said much, cried and said "thank you."
"It was the longest time she ever lingered," said MVA employee Etta Hooper. "Then she scuttled off."