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Nellie A. Watts

The Baltimore Sun

Nellie A. Watts, a practical nurse and beauty shop owner who styled hair until she was 100 and shopped at the Lexington Market until she was 103, died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the Joseph Richey Hospice. The West Baltimore resident was 107.

Born Nellie Ardelia Jerman in Norfolk, Va., where she attended public schools, she moved to Baltimore in 1910 and lived on Carrollton Avenue. As a young woman, she graduated from the Philadelphia School of Nursing.

A licensed practical nurse, she assisted elderly patients in their homes for more than seven decades and gave up the work at age 99. She never drove and traveled by streetcar, later by bus -- and by foot. Family members said she often walked several miles a day and later sported a cane.

"She swung the cane around and said she never really needed it," said a great-niece, Barbara Forrest, who lives in West Baltimore. "She said if anyone bothered her, she'd use the cane on them."

In 1912 she joined the Macedonia Baptist Church and was part of a 1925 procession when it moved from Saratoga Street to its present location at Lafayette and Fremont avenues.

For many years Mrs. Watts sang in the church choir and was part of a church nurses unit that assisted worshipers who became faint during services. Several years ago, because of her age and service to Macedonia, she was given the title Mother of the Church.

In 1921 she married William Watts, who worked in a costume shop. He died more than 40 years ago.

In addition to her nursing work, Mrs. Watts owned and operated Watts Beauty Salon at Calhoun and Saratoga streets until she was 100.

"She believed her longevity was not giving in to pain, not complaining, trusting in the Lord, and a little glass of sherry, twice a year, on Christmas Day and on her birthday, " said her great-niece.

She lived independently and took buses to shop at Lexington Market by herself until she was 103. Her nieces said she carried her groceries home on the bus.

Her great-niece said that one day she was mugged and knocked down at the market. She rose and chased her assailant until she snatched her pocketbook back. Bystanders put her in a cab and sent her home. Family members then recommended she stop going to the market.

Mrs, Watts had no children but lived with a niece she raised as a daughter, Gladys Forrest.

She fell and broke her hip in February 2006. She underwent surgery but had difficulty walking again.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Macedonia Baptist Church, 718 W. Lafayette Ave.

She is survived by two additional nieces, Priscilla Warren and Justine Barnes; three cousins, Richard Hunter, Shirley Hunter and Gregory Hunter; and a great-great- niece, Dawn Wilson. All reside in Baltimore

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