Jane 'Bessie' Preis, 94, raised 13 children despite stroke

Jane Elizabeth "Bessie" Preis, a homemaker who was able to raise her 13 children despite a disabling stroke, died of cerebral vascular complications Saturday at Oak Crest Village. She was 94 and had lived since 1998 at the Parkville retirement community.

Born Jane Elizabeth Reid in Baltimore, she attended the Institute of Notre Dame.


She was married in 1929 to Dr. Kyrle W. Preis, a Baltimore orthodontist and researcher. Her husband died in 1999.

Mrs. Preis and her husband lived for 54 years at Heathcote Cottage, their Kingsville farm, where she raised her 13 children.


"In October of 1958, when she had just turned 49, she suffered a stroke which left her unable to speak and a right-side paralysis. Her youngest child was 6 years old, and there were four under the age of 11," said a son, Dr. Frederick G. Preis, also an orthodontist, who lives in Roland Park.

"She wasn't expected to come home from the hospital, but when she did, it was on Thanksgiving Day. She never recovered her speech but did manage to develop her nondominant left side so that she could cook, do limited sewing, assist with the laundry. She was even able to climb a set of stairs and in general maintain her house," her son said.

Deeply religious, Mrs. Preis was a friend of then-Bishop Lawrence Shehan and was invited to Rome for his elevation to cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1965.

"During the ceremony, Pope Paul heard of our mother and invited her to come forward, and they had a chat which ended with the agreement that they would both pray for one another, and the pope presented her with a gift," Dr. Preis said.

In her later years, Mrs. Preis enjoyed listening to the conversations of those around her. She was able to acknowledge what was being said with movements of her left hand, eyes and head.

"Although she could read before her eyesight failed, she was unable to write after the stroke, so communication was difficult and at times frustrating for everyone. Nevertheless, when you were in her presence she never failed to make you feel better as you witnessed her courage, faith and humility, along with a genuine interest in your well-being," the son said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church, 8030 Bradshaw Road in Bradshaw.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Pries is survived by nine other sons, Richard R. Preis of Glen Arm, Kyrle W. Preis Jr. of Kingsville, Robert D. Preis of Arbutus, David F.X. Preis of New Bern, N.C., John C. Preis and Stephen C. Preis, both of Perry Hall, Philip J. Preis of Annapolis, Timothy R. Preis of Hampstead and Thomas R. Preis of Santa Monica, Calif.; three daughters, Jane E. Preis White of Kingsville, M. Cynthia Preis Fortuna of Monkton and Katherine L. Preis of Towson; a brother, Wallace Reid of Towson; two sisters, Rubena R. Nash of Woodlawn and Doris Reid Gardner of Towson; 26 grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.