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Alice B. Hoffberger, Baltimore arts patron and philanthropist, dies

Alice Berney Hoffberger, philanthropist and arts patron whose husband's family owned the Orioles, dies at 90.

Alice Berney Hoffberger, a philanthropist and arts patron who rooted for the Baltimore Orioles — the team her husband's family owned — died of Alzheimer's disease Thursday at Blakehurst Retirement Community in Towson.

The longtime Riderwood resident was 90.

Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Sidney Berney, a vice president of the old Hamburger's men's store who was also an artist, and Dorothy Long Berney, a niece of Claribel and Etta Cone, the sisters who acquired the major 19th- and 20th-century art collection now housed at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

As a young woman, Mrs. Hoffberger would visit her great-aunt's Etta's apartment at the Marlborough on Eutaw Place.

She grew up in Windsor Hills on Talbot Road and was a 1943 graduate of the Park School, where she played field hockey. She studied art at Briarcliff Junior College in Westchester County, N.Y.

"My mother was an ardently patriotic person," said her son, David Hoffberger of Annapolis. "She knitted socks and gloves for American servicemen overseas during World War II. In later years, she dedicated several of her paintings to themes championing her love for America."

While at a Phoenix Club function, she met her future husband, Jerold Charles Hoffberger, a World War II veteran who would head the National Brewing Co. They married in 1946.

Her husband and other members of the Hoffberger family became principal owners of the Orioles after the franchise returned to Baltimore in 1954.

"If my father was at Memorial Stadium, she was there beside him," said her son. "She was attending a game when she went into labor. My father drove her to the hospital, where my sister was born in 1954."

In 1966, when the Orioles defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in four straight games to capture the World Series, Mrs. Hoffberger had the phrase "Four Straight" painted on the side of her automobile, her son said. She was friendly with Orioles players, who often visited the Hoffberger home for a swim.

In a 1966 article in The New York Times, she described Orioles manager Hank Bauer as "soft-spoken off the field" and "an immaculate dresser."

"She was the consummate wife, who traveled with her husband on business trips for the Baltimore Orioles, the National Brewing Co. and in support of Jewish, political and inter-religious causes," her son said.

She appeared in numerous photographs at Memorial Stadium as she sat with governors, mayors and other officials — including Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who attended a 1966 World Series game. A student of baseball, she always kept score throughout a game. She also enjoyed talking to fellow fans.

A 1979 Baltimore Sun article described her as a "tall, thin, attractive woman who looks too young to be the mother of four grown children and one grandchild."

She and her husband lived for nearly 30 years at their Sunset Hill residence in Riderwood.

"Our house was a revolving door for business and political meetings," said her son. "Our friends knew they were welcome, and they just came and came. She was a fabulous cook who learned from her mother."

She also patronized the Penn Hotel in Towson, the Woman's Industrial Exchange, Peerce's Plantation, the Prime Rib, the Valley Inn, and the tearooms at the old Hutzler's department stores.

Her son recalled that his mother's passion for fine arts was interconnected with her family's interests as working artists and collectors.

"She was always a student of painting. She held shows and sales of her art throughout Maryland," her son said.

Mrs. Hoffberger was a donor to the Walters Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Park School, the Maryland Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, and Johns Hopkins Hospital and its Wilmer Eye Institute.

Mrs. Hoffberger was an active member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, where she helped design a mosaic for the ark that holds the Torah. She also set up the sukkah for the annual autumn harvest festival of Sukkot.

"My mother's paternal family, the Berneys and Hutzlers, were community leaders in business, civil rights, health and Jewish causes in Baltimore since the mid-1850s," her son said. "One of her greatest joys was that her children, nieces and nephews continue to carry the mantles of civic, political, religious, medical, art and educational responsibilities today."

Mrs. Hoffberger wrote letters to The Sun. In 1962, she campaigned for seat belt use: "The cost of the belts is foolishly inexpensive compared to the pricelessness of human life."

Mrs. Hoffberger also played golf and tennis several times a week with friends, and was a duckpin bowler.

Services were held Sunday at Sol Levinson and Bros.

In addition to her son, survivors include two other sons, Richard Hoffberger and C. Peter Hoffberger, both of Baltimore; a daughter, Carol McCarthy of Clermont, Fla.; 12 grandchildren; and a great-grandson. Her husband of 53 years died in 1999.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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