Shirley L. Polikoff, a former Baltimore "hostess with the mostest" who had been assistant director of catered events at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, died of cancer Tuesday at her home in Lexington, Ky. The former Owings Mills resident was 83.
She was born and raised Shirley Globus. Her parents owned and operated several Globus Cafeterias in downtown Baltimore.
After graduating from Western High School, she worked in New York as a fashion model for several years.
She was married in 1948 to Marvin M. "Buck" Polikoff, a Baltimore lawyer who challenged the city's segregation laws and defended civil rights demonstrators. He died in 2002.
From the 1980s until retiring in 1995, Mrs. Polikoff was assistant director of catered events at the National Aquarium, where she brought a refined sense of food and wine to events held there.
"No one could throw a party like Shirley. She had so much style and panache. She always made each one special and fun," said her niece, Nina Globus of Cherry Hill, N.J. "She was able to bring in people from various backgrounds, mix them together and make a memorable party."
Mrs. Polikoff was also known for her stylish clothes and wide-brimmed millinery.
"I wear no frills, no prints, no furs, no minis. I love hats. I feel when you go shopping, if you want to be waited on, dress well," she said in a 1995 article in The Sun.
"The other day, I went shopping and had a plain silk blazer, pants, a beige shell and a good-looking beige hat with a scarf. You put on a hat, and it adds a touch to an outfit that people notice," she said.
Her fashion advice was simple: "Be daring."
The year after her husband's death, Mrs. Polikoff purchased a 12-acre farm in Lexington, where she continued her lifelong enthusiasm for racing and parties.
She also served as president of Free-Wheeling Stables, a syndicate of friends who owned and raced several thoroughbreds.
"When she was a kid, she'd go to the track with her father, who taught her how to handicap races," her niece said. "She was very knowledgeable and didn't bet on racing silks or jockeys. She knew what she was doing."
Even though she was ill, Mrs. Polikoff continued to enjoy herself.
"She put more into her life than most people ever dream of. Just a few weeks before her death, she danced at a Kentucky charity ball with an oxygen tank strapped to her back," Ms. Globus said.
There will be no formal services.
"We're going to have a party in a few weeks, which will be a celebration of her life," the niece said.
Mrs. Polikoff is survived by two sons, Judson Polikoff of Atlanta and Adam Polikoff of Hughesville; a granddaughter; and a nephew.