Marguerite W. Strzegowski, who co- founded an East Baltimore seafood business and crab house carryout, died of diabetes complications Sunday at Dorchester General Hospital. The Fells Point resident was 78.
Born Marguerite W. Rippons in Dorchester County's Hoopersville, she was a member of a family that had worked the waters of the Chesapeake Bay for more than five generations.
During World War II, her family moved to Baltimore, and she was a 1946 graduate of what was then Patterson Park High School. That year, she married Albert L. Strzegowski, who worked in the men's garment industry as an examiner.
In 1964, the couple founded Al's Seafood at Fleet and Wolfe streets and expanded the seafood carryout business to Essex in 1976 and Overlea in 1977.
In 1982, they and other family members expanded the Essex operation into a 91-seat restaurant at Stemmers Run Road and Eastern Boulevard, where it remains.
"It was a ma-and-pa operation, and she wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty," said her son, Albert L. Strzegowski Jr. of Eastwood, who has retired and whose son operates the seafood business.
Mrs. Strzegowski retired in 1996.
"Marge's hobby was ceramics, but she was mostly well-known for her kindness, personality and fun," her son said. "She always treasured her Hoopers Island heritage but, she adopted Fells Point, where she lived for so much of her life."
He described his mother as "a proud Democrat" who joined the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point more than 40 years ago. She was one of the originators of the Fells Point Fun Festival and was its events chairwoman.
When her 3-year-old grandson, Zachary, died of cancer 32 years ago, she kept his memory alive by arranging for Santa Claus to arrive by boat and distribute gifts to Fells Point children. She continued that project until her health began to fail several years ago.
Her funeral Mass was offered yesterday at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church, where she was a member.
Survivors also include two other sons, Dennis J. Strzegowski of Stevensville and William J. Strzegowski of Baltimore; a daughter, Maryann Czawlytko of Hoopersville; a brother, Irving Rippons of Fishing Creek; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Her husband died in 1983, and a daughter, Eleanora Strzegowski, died in 1984.