Rosa Lee Bell, the mother of Maryland's chief judge, died Tuesday of a circulatory ailment at her home in Brooklyn, N.Y. She was 84 and formerly resided in East Baltimore.
She was born Rosa Lee Jordan in Enfield, N.C., the oldest girl in a family of 11 children. Her parents were sharecroppers.
"When the crop had to be gotten out, she was not in school. At best, she completed the third grade. Later in life, she taught herself to read and got an eighth-grade equivalency certificate," said her son, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell of the Maryland Court of Appeals. "She was motivated to read the Bible."
In 1937, she married Thomas Bell, also a farmer who later did construction work.
The Bells moved to Baltimore in the mid-1940s, and lived first on Aisquith Street, then on North Broadway, and finally on Hoffman Street. Her husband died in 1976.
"She had this real sense of the value of education, and she insisted upon it for her children. She was one of the strongest persons I've ever known," Judge Bell said. "She knew what was right and what was wrong. She took a principled stand and stayed with it."
She moved to Brooklyn in 1960 and worked assisting the elderly and ill with their housekeeping. She often returned to Baltimore to visit her family.
"At age 75 she took a transit a bus to Manhattan to complete a course in home health care," said another son, Joe Louis Bell of Baltimore. "She was a remarkable person. She worked until she was 80."
She was a member of the Holiness Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn.
Services will be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at March East Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave.
In addition to her sons, Mrs. Bell is survived by two sisters, Annie Lou "Della" Pittman of Newport News, Va., and Mamie Gunter of Scotland Neck, N.C.; 10 grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren. A son, Willie Edward Bell, died in infancy, and another, Ellison Bell, died in 1997.