Adele-Ethel Reidy, airline attendant and Walters Art Museum volunteer, dies

A funeral Mass will be held Saturday for Adele-Ethel Reidy, a former Walters Art Museum docent who witnessed the 1949 settlement of Jews in a young State of Israel.

Mrs. Reidy, who resided in West Towson for many years, died of stroke complications Oct. 29 at the Westminster Canterbury at Shenandoah Valley, a senior living community in Winchester, Va. She was 95.

Born in Chicago, she was the daughter of Dr. Joseph Kaczkowski, a general practitioner, and his wife, Blanche, a homemaker. She was a 1941 graduate of the Academy of Our Lady. She obtained a music history degree at the Chicago Musical College.

Family members said her father wanted her to teach music, but she jumped at a chance to see the world by joining Trans-World Airlines in 1945. She trained in Kansas City and became a hostess. She served at the Midway airfield in Chicago, and later flew the trans-Atlantic route from New York to Paris, based at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Her son, Jonathan Reidy, said his mother was given a temporary assignment in the summer and fall of 1949: She was chosen by TWA’s upper management to assist in establishing flights to Israel.

“She was the only hostess on these flights,” her son said. “They were based in Rome during this time.”

Mrs. Reidy accompanied hundreds of Jews, some of whom had been liberated from Nazi death camps, to establish lives in the newly founded State of Israel, he said.

“This was an important time in her life,” her son said. “It gave her a new perspective. She recalled meeting a young man in his 20s who had been in a concentration camp. He was once fairly well-to-do, but he lost everything. But he told her how much he was looking forward to a new beginning in Israel.”

Another son, Christopher Reidy, said: “She recalled being on a flight with the future prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion.”

She lived in Rome and traveled in her free time throughout Europe.

She continued to fly with TWA when she married Dr. Joseph James Reidy, a psychiatrist.

“They met at a wedding and my father had to propose to her three times,” her son said. “She loved her job and did not want to get married.”

They lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, at Ladd Air Force Base, where she developed an interest in native art. She and her husband moved to Groom Drive in Towson in 1958.

After raising her family, Mrs. Reidy maintained a busy volunteer schedule. She taught eighth-grade catechism classes at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where she also was chair of the Archdiocesan Library.

She also studied library science at Towson University, and was an active member of the Church and Synagogue Library Association.

Mrs. Reidy was a cook and baker. She assembled family recipes, added her own dishes and compiled a 60-page book, in which she also sprinkled family history.

“She never used margarine, which she called oleo. Only butter,” said her son Jonathan. “Her butterscotch-chocolate brownies were famous.”

From 1986 to 2011, Mrs. Reidy was a docent at what is now the Walters Art Museum and often led school tours. She also dedicated a part of her home to file cabinets where she kept her art history research materials.

“Adele always went out of her way to be extra nice and warm,” said John J. Shields, retired manager of Walters docent programs. “She worked well with all age groups and ... loved working with the younger children. She was maternal and was a born teacher.”

Mr. Shields also said: “Adele was a spiritual person — she understood our collection of religious art well. She was also compassionate. I am sure she was a wonderful confidant to the other docents.”

Mrs. Reidy did not drive. She had a large baby carriage and transported her children on daily walks to Towson from her home on Groom Drive. She also did her grocery shopping on foot, pulling a red grocery cart.

“She lived on Groom Drive so long that she became a grandmother and a great-grandmother to every kid in the neighborhood,” her son Jonathan said.

In 1991 she joined St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church and taught in its Sunday school.

“Adele was a gracious and welcoming woman and was a leader on our hospitality committee. People found her to be charming and warm,” said the Rev. William J. Watters, a Jesuit priest and former St. Ignatius pastor. “She was indefatigable. Her energy was enormous.”

The funeral Mass on Saturday will be held at 1 p.m. at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St.

In addition to her sons, survivors include two other sons, Terrence Reidy of Bunker Hill, W.Va., and Timothy Reidy of Hedgesville, W.Va.; a sister, Rosemary Kaye of Carmel, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters. Her husband of 53 years, former director of the Esther Richardson Children's Center and assistant commissioner of the Maryland Department of Mental Hygiene, died in 2004.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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