Anne K. von Schwerdtner, a retired executive secretary who was active in historic and neighborhood organizations, died of complications from multiple sclerosis July 1 at Roland Park Place. The former Old Goucher resident was 87.
Anna Katharina von Schwerdtner was born in Gettysburg, Pa., the daughter of Ernst von Schwerdtner, a language professor and coach at what is now Towson University, and the former Susan Harvey, a Baltimore City social work supervisor.
Raised on Calvert Street in Charles Village, she graduated from Western High School in 1943 at age 15. She earned a bachelor's degree in English at the University of Maryland, College Park.
She became an instructor in business and English at a Baltimore commercial school. She was called upon to teach a type of shorthand called speed writing. At the end of a six-week course, she left the school and became the executive secretary at the old Western Maryland Railway. Because Baltimore once had a Western Maryland Dairy, she told her friends she worked "at the choo-choo, not the moo-moo."
"Anne was a complex, elegant and concerned Baltimorean," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, a family friend. "She took pride in her city and in her ancestry. She was equally proud of her American and German backgrounds."
She went on to serve as secretary to Edward S. Northrop, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Maryland, at the old Federal Court House on Calvert Street.
Miss von Schwerdtner was later a head clerk at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. She monitored the admission gates and the cashiers and night guards.
She went on to be administrative assistant for the Regional Planning Council and worked with fire departments in the Baltimore region. She worked on fire safety issues related to the city's network of rail tunnels, including Amtrak, CSX and the Baltimore Metro transit system.
Miss von Schwerdtner lived at the University One apartments before she bought and renovated an 1880s home on St. Paul Street near 21st Street.
"She was the second person to become an owner-occupant on the block in 1978," said Durward Center, a neighbor and friend. "She moved into what had been a beauty parlor and converted it into her apartment. The house had been made into seven or eight apartments and sleeping rooms, which she removed. She decorated her place in basic white and would serve lemonade in her patio. She was a sweet lady. She had definite ideas and liked to entertain. In a kindly way, some neighbors called her the Baroness."
Friends said that Miss von Schwerdtner had an interest in her family history. She was a member of the Society of Lees of Virginia and arranged meetings for the group in Baltimore. She was also a board member of the Society for the History of Germans in Maryland. She belonged to the English Speaking Union and the Woman's Club of Roland Park.
She led tours at Homewood House on the Johns Hopkins University campus. For more than 30 years, she attended monthly Hopkins community conversations.
She was a communicant of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
"She was devoted to Old St. Paul's," said Nancy Schamu, a friend from the congregation. "She was a wonderful hostess, and Anne made a contribution to Baltimore by her years of commitment to living in the city."
Miss von Schwerdtner had worked in downtown Baltimore for decades and joined an informal group that named itself the Down Under Club. Beginning in the 1960s, she met the dozen members for lunches and conversation at the Woman's Industrial Exchange. They assembled in a basement-level lunchroom off Pleasant Street under the Exchange's main restaurant.
"I met Anne years ago when we were among the only women who ate lunch at the downstairs counter. The regulars included judges, businessmen and civic leaders. It took a certain spark to hold your own in this company," said J. Wynn Rousuck, The Baltimore Sun's former drama critic. "Anne definitely had it. She was a smart, cultured woman who enjoyed good company and good conversation."
Ms. Rousuck said that after the downtown lunch counter closed, Miss von Schwerdtner organized monthly reunion luncheons. She set them up at the former Roland Park Deli and then at Roland Park Place, where she lived most recently.
"She was a force for bringing people together, and all of us were touched by that force," said Ms. Rousuck.
A life celebration will be held at 4 p.m. July 25 at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St.