Paule Simone Ingberg, who endured the Nazi occupation of her native France before moving to this country, died Thursday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the Gilchrist Hospice Center in Towson. She was 86.
Paule Vallet spent her childhood in Paris singing with a chorus, sampling perfume in fine shops and playing bridge with adults. "When she was 7 or 8 years old, her favorite bridge partner was a judge," said a daughter, Suzanne Hoffman of Ellicott City. During World War II, her brother was a member of the French Resistance and her sister was jailed for shouting at the screen during a newsreel about Adolf Hitler.
After the war, at the age of 27, she moved to this country. She barely spoke English and took a series of jobs at restaurants in Washington.
"She kept getting fired because her English was so bad," her daughter said. At one of the restaurants, she met the man who became her husband, Philip S. Ingberg, a deliveryman. They married in 1950 and settled in Laurel.
Even after decades in this country, Mrs. Ingberg maintained a strong Parisian identity and spoke with a thick accent, her daughter said.
When her daughter was young, Mrs. Ingberg worked part time at Lord and Taylor and a children's clothing store, but when her husband became ill, she took cleaning jobs to make ends meet. She scrubbed a dentist's office before dawn so that she could be home when her husband awoke, her daughter said. Mr. Ingberg died in 1992.
After her husband's death, Mrs. Ingberg started playing bridge at local senior centers and volunteering at Howard County General Hospital. She was named Volunteer of the Year there for three years, her daughter said.
In 1995, she traveled to France with her daughter for a relative's wedding, one of five trips that she made to her native country.
Mrs. Ingberg lived in Pfister's Mobile Home Park in Laurel for more than 40 years, until the land was sold to developers in 2004 and she moved to an apartment in the Harper's Choice neighborhood of Columbia. She walked between three and six miles each day and spent hours visiting with the employees of the Safeway grocery store and Tuesday Morning home store in the Harper's Choice Village Center. "She was kind of a fixture," her daughter said.
As her disease progressed, Mrs. Ingberg would sometimes wander far from home and ask a stranger to bring her to her daughter's house. They always did, Mrs. Hoffman said.
"It's kind of a sad thing, but you see the kindness of others as they helped her," she said. "Lots of people could have taken advantage of my mother, but they didn't."
This year, Mrs. Ingberg moved to an assisted-living facility in Columbia for people with Alzheimer's, but she was unhappy there and tried to leave several times. "She just liked to be outside," her daughter said. "She liked the freedom of being able to walk."
Mrs. Ingberg moved to a nursing home and then the Gilchrist Hospice Center.
A funeral service is planned for 10 a.m. tomorrow at the chapel adjacent to the Donaldson Funeral Home, 313 Talbott Ave., Laurel.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by a brother, Michel Vallet of Verneuil L'Etange, France.