Helen Lord, 107, of Carroll Co. dies


Helen H. Lord's life spanned three centuries, 19 presidencies and wars from the Spanish-American to Iraq.

She remained active throughout her life - putting together her autobiography at age 96, taking a cruise at age 100 - and didn't slow down until her 105th birthday, living quietly in recent years at Carroll Lutheran Village retirement community in Westminster.

Mrs. Lord - who was thought to be one of the state's oldest residents - died Sunday of old age at the retirement community. She was 107.

She was born Helen Hoffses on April 25, 1897, in Waltham, Mass., less than two months after the inauguration of President William McKinley.

During her childhood in the twilight of the Victorian era, automobiles were scarce, homes and shops were largely illuminated by gaslight, and the telephone was a novelty.

"These were the days when the wall phone rang to tell one's neighbors, and anyone else listening in on the party line, that an auto just went by. We would rush to the window, or even out into the yard, to see what would later become so much a part of our lives," she wrote in her memoir, Footprints on the Sand of Time: The Story of My Life.

Ten-mile shopping trips to Boston with her mother began aboard a horse-drawn "barge" carriage that had seats running its length, and were completed by trolley. To pass time on the journey, she counted the "horseless carriages" along the way.

"Twenty-five was a good number," she wrote.

"The first national catastrophe I remember was the earthquake and fire of 1906, which destroyed most of San Francisco. To protect the kitchen wall from grease spatters, my grandmother covered it with newspapers showing the lurid flames, and I was enthralled by the pictures," she wrote.

"Six years later, the newsboys were selling extras about the sinking of the Titanic, and the part the newly invented wireless failed to play in the tragedy."

After graduation from high school in 1916, she studied nursing at Simmons College in Boston and cared for victims of the 1918 influenza epidemic at a Boston-area hospital.

While working at hotels on Nantucket during college she met William E. Lord, then a Massachusetts Nautical School cadet. They married in 1919.

The couple moved to Baltimore's Hamilton section in 1920, when he took a job as a steamship captain for the old A.H. Bull line. He died in 1944.

Mrs. Lord, who worked at the Coast Guard yard in Curtis Bay during World War II, later lived in Govans and on Chinquapin Parkway, raising four children, now ages 72 to 84.

During the 1950s and early 1960s she was a floor manager at Sinai Hospital in East Baltimore and after its move to Belvedere Avenue. She retired in 1968.

After she turned 65, Mrs. Lord began traveling.

"She visited the Iron Curtain countries, China, France, Germany, Switzerland, Africa and South America. She celebrated her 100th birthday with a cruise to Alaska," said a daughter, Patricia Spicer, a retired registered nurse who lives in Frederick.

Mrs. Lord had never been sick until 1982, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She also survived a broken hip, stroke, heart attack and pneumonia since then.

"She was a tough old bird and a very, very feisty lady. She was very tenacious and never complained. They grow 'em strong in New England," Mrs. Spicer said.

"When asked about her longevity, she'd say, 'I didn't drink. I didn't smoke. And I didn't run around with the boys.'"

Mrs. Lord was in her 90s when she decided to transcribe the diaries that she began in pencil in 1906. They became the basis for her illustrated memoir, which was privately published for family members in 1993.

Mrs. Lord remained vigorous until passing her 105th birthday, when she began to slow a bit.

"She was a grand, soft-spoken lady who had many wonderful memories and stories to tell. I saw her a week before she died - in the beauty parlor getting her hair done - and as usual she was immaculately dressed," said Hermine P. Saunders, director of church and public relations at the retirement community where Mrs. Lord had lived since the late 1990s.

She was a 40-year member of Open Bible Church and formerly an active member of the Bykota Senior Center in Towson.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday in the chapel at Carroll Lutheran Village, 300 St. Luke Circle, Westminster.

Survivors also include her son, William E. Lord Jr. of Baltimore; her two other daughters, Virginia Keim of Accokeek and Roberta Gunter of Red Lion, Pa.; 12 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

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