Ann Eliza Howard, a retired social services aide and mother of nine who received recognition for her school volunteerism, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at the Spa Creek Center nursing home in Annapolis, where she had lived for the past four years. The former East Baltimore resident was 83.
Ann Eliza Gray was born and raised in Scranton, N.C., where she graduated from high school and studied nursing before moving to Baltimore about 1940. She worked for the former Glenn L. Martin Co. and at a Howard Johnson's restaurant.
She then became a city Department of Social Services home health aide. Family members said she visited the homes of her clients and provided nursing services to shut-ins, the infirm and elderly. She retired in 1986.
"She was an excellent nurse who was also a spiritual woman," said daughter Sandra Simmons of Baltimore. "She often prayed with her patients and brought them healing."
"She was a struggling mother in the neighborhood who tried and succeeded in raising her children the right way," said the Rev. Nathaniel Higgs, pastor of Southern Baptist Church and a friend for 50 years. "She was a hard worker. I can see her early in the morning, standing on a street corner waiting for a bus to get to work."
Family members said she was a strict mother who required that all of her nine children be home and off the street before nightfall. In the morning, she had a pot of oatmeal simmering for their breakfast. She also taught them the value of an education.
"She was the eyes and ears of her church and her street," said Eldridge Branch, a former neighbor and friend. "She had a big heart and often served a dinner to any child who showed up at her table."
After her 1983 retirement, Mrs. Howard began going daily to Windsor Hills Elementary School on Alto Road, where two of her grandchildren were pupils. She helped serve breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria and was a classroom aide.
In 1986, she was honored with a "Channel 13 Salute" from WJZ-TV for her "energy, attitude and efforts." She also had been honored with a proclamation from then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.
Mrs. Howard was also a volunteer at the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Parent and Child Center. She also was chairwoman of two Gray family reunions, one held in Woodlawn and another at a downtown hotel, and was co-chairwoman of another in Atlanta.
Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at Southern Baptist Church, 1701 N. Chester St., where she sang soprano in the choirs.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include four sons, Columbus Howard of Lumberton, N.C., Clinton Howard of Baltimore, Grant Howard of Dale City, Va., and Army Sgt. Carlton Howard, on assignment in Iraq; four other daughters, Ella Thomas and Shirley Walker, both of Baltimore, Ellen Abdul-Rabb of Glen Burnie and Lillie Howard of Voorhees, N.J.; two brothers, George T. Gray of Burlington, N.J., and Wilbert Gray of Baltimore; two sisters, Edna Pearline Randolph of Baltimore and Mary A. Anderson of Newburg in Charles County; 20 grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren. Her marriage to Columbus Benjamin Howard Sr., a construction worker, ended in divorce.