Anita M. Sterrette, a retired businesswoman who was active in civic and political affairs, died Sunday of heart failure at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The longtime West Baltimore resident was 74.
Anita Marie Hackett was born the eldest of 17 children in Baltimore. She was raised on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Lafayette Market, where as a child she cleaned vegetable stalls to earn money to help support her family.
When she was 9 years old, she began cleaning houses, and continued doing so until 1950, when she graduated from Frederick Douglass High School.
For years, she worked as a cashier at the Penn Fruit Co. store in Mondawmin.
A daughter and niece of painting contractors, Mrs. Sterrette enjoyed doing interior painting and had painted her own home many times.
Her efforts were rebuffed when she went seeking a full-time job in the industry, so she started her own painting business, Anita Painting, in 1970.
"They absolutely laughed at me," she told The Evening Sun in a 1971 interview.
"I found that a lot of women were doing their own painting, but no one wanted to hire one. I decided there must be a lot of women interested in working, so I started my own business," she said.
Mrs. Sterrette who dressed her painters in bright red jumpsuits, didn't mind climbing up 40-foot ladders and working just as hard as her employees.
"She hired and trained female painters, and her goal was to open new fields of work for women," said a son, Devereaux E. Sterrette of Baltimore.
Mrs. Sterrette sold the business in 1988 and retired.
She had served on the Mayor's Task Force on Education and was a member of many organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, the Baltimore City and Maryland Women's Political Caucus, National Organization of Women and the National Black Caucus.
Mrs. Sterrette was a longtime communicant of St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church, where she helped organize and volunteered in the church's soup kitchen.
Her husband of 30 years, Devereaux L. Sterrette, an advertising solicitor for the Man Publishing Co., died in 1986.
A Mass of Christian burial was offered at her church yesterday.
Also surviving is another son, Dorian A. Sterrette of Baltimore; three foster daughters, Sherri Christopher of Baltimore, Benita Griggs of Kansas City, Kan., and Angela Hudgins of Palm Springs, Calif.; four sisters, Dolores Bowles and Carmelita B. Hackett of Baltimore, Imelda F. Hackett of Washington, and June Richey of Seattle; and a grandson.