Beverly W. Kline, 68, activist devoted to improving Dundalk


Beverly W. Kline, a Dundalk activist who had leadership roles in organizations devoted to beautifying the community and helping victims of domestic violence, died of a heart attack Friday at a sister's house there. She was 68.

Through the Dundalk Church of the Brethren, Ms. Kline helped establish and then lead the Dundalk Youth Service Center, which counsels teen-agers and helps school dropouts complete their education and get jobs, and the Family Crisis Center of Baltimore County, which provides help and shelter to victims of domestic violence and therapy for them as well as for perpetrators.

She also helped found and served as president of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.

In addition, Ms. Kline helped spearhead a review of dying trees in Dundalk that determined which should be felled and helped establish the Greening of Dundalk Committee to raise money for buying and planting hardy replacements.

She also was known as the kindly woman who picked up runaways at the Baltimore bus station, delivered food to African-Americans in the city during the 1968 rioting, and told young women of their worth.

"Miss Bev was my second mom," said Toni Stone, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. Instead of turning to her strict mother, Ms. Stone, a friend of Ms. Kline's older daughter, talked with Ms. Kline about "boys and moms and sisters - because I had three of them - and church."

Born in Dundalk, the former Beverly Olson spent much of her childhood in Inglewood, Calif., after her father transferred there to work for the Boeing aviation company.

She took to California, winning a Little Miss Hollywood competition as a pigtailed girl, and developing a lifelong affinity for avocado and a preference for Pacific Ocean beaches.

Despite her love for the West Coast, Ms. Kline was a proud resident of Dundalk, where she lived since her family's return during her early teens.

"She would always say, 'I'm from Dundalk, and I've lived in Dundalk all my life,' and she would do that with pleasure and an almost inborn resistance to the idea that Dundalk was a place where only ne'er-do-wells live," said Ruth Gunn, a friend who worked with Ms. Kline at the youth and crisis centers.

After her mailing address was officially changed to Baltimore, Ms. Kline insisted on writing "Dundalk" on mailings, Ms. Gunn said. She often gave grandchildren and staff at the centers tours of the neighborhood.

Her many good works might have stemmed from sadness in her life, said Ms. Kline's younger daughter, Belinda K. Good of Elizabethtown, Pa. Ms. Kline was 16 when her father died, forcing her to drop out of school and work as a telephone operator to support her family. Three years later, her mother died.

In the years that followed, Ms. Kline lent an ear to those in need. She helped establish Meals on Wheels in Dundalk. The rowhouse she shared with her husband of 41 years, Benjamin G. Kline, served as a hostel for the down and out. Mr. Kline died in 1994.

"It was not unusual to come home from a school event and have a stranger staying overnight," said her older daughter, Bonnie Kline Smeltzer of State College, Pa. "These were people like runaways or people strung out on drugs."

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Dundalk Church of the Brethren, 2660 Yorkway.

In addition to her two daughters, Ms. Kline is survived by three sisters, Theda Chamberlain of Henderson Harbor, N.Y., Betty Hall of Dundalk and Connie Holland of Baltimore, and six grandchildren.

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