Helen Stephania Hanzlik Roche, a retired chief telephone operator at Mercy Hospital, died from complications of Alzheimer's disease Wednesday at Stella Maris in Timonium. She was 96.
She worked at the Baltimore hospital, now called Mercy Medical Center, for 35 years. She retired in 1977, after serving for two decades as the supervisor of the telecommunications department.
Born in East Baltimore, she left St. Andrew's School at age 12 to help her newly widowed father take care of her four siblings.
Several years later, she was hired by the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. and trained as a switchboard operator. She was employed as a telephone operator at The Sun from 1930 to 1933, when she stopped working to raise her family.
She married Cornelius Francis Roche Jr., a reporter for The Sun, in 1931. They divorced shortly before she retired. Mr. Roche died in 1981.
She was a member of St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore.
She enjoyed spending time with her family; traveling; growing flowers, especially African violets; and sewing, a skill she learned from her grandfather, who was a tailor.
"She was a tremendous seamstress. She could make a man's suit in a day," said Lucille Elizabeth Boellner of Carney, a daughter with whom she lived from 1993 until moving to Stella Maris in 1997.
"She made very pretty dresses with smocking, also some suits and aprons and things of that nature," Ms. Boellner said.
A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. today in the chapel at Stella Maris, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, Lutherville.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include another daughter, Helen Patricia Rogers of Miami; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.