Claire H. Alvarez, a former longtime Belair-Edison resident who loved the 1950s and was a talented dancer and seamstress, died of complications from dementia Aug. 5 at her Cambridge home. She was 83.
“She and her husband, my Uncle Vic, were very 1950s, very Rat Pack-ish people,” said a nephew, Rafael Alvarez, an author and former Baltimore Sun reporter, who lives in Greektown. “He drove a 1966 navy-blue Pontiac Grand Prix and she had a beehive hairdo. He wore white shirts with skinny black ties. They were quite the couple, but at the same time she was a good Catholic girl.”
The former Claire Helena Wiegmann, the youngest of four and the daughter of Frederic Wiegmann, a Standard Oil Co. office worker who worked at the old Esso refinery on Boston Street in Canton, and Ida Kremer Wiegmann, a homemaker, was born at 818 South Clinton St. in Highlandtown and raised there.
“Aunt Claire was very proud of her German roots and she was the lone German in a family of Italians and Polish,” Mr. Alvarez said. “We used to tease her about that, but she stood up for herself.”
A lifelong practicing Roman Catholic, Mrs. Alvarez attended Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church on Conkling Street, where she was baptized, made first Communion and was confirmed. She attended Sacred Heart of Jesus parochial school from first to eighth grade, and then attended and graduated from Catholic High School.
After leaving high school, she did clerical work before her marriage, and then in the 1960s, returned as an office worker for L.A. Benson, an East Monument Street real estate agency, where she worked for about a decade.
Mrs. Alvarez met her future husband, Victor Alvarez — who grew up on South Macon Street in Greektown and was a 1955 Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School graduate — in 1954 at The Arundel, which was a popular Highlandtown ice cream and soda fountain.
“Claire — ‘a nice Catholic girl’ — was with a few of her friends. Vic — known in 1950s Baltimore as a ‘drape,’ dramatized by John Waters in the 1990 movie ‘Cry Baby,’ noticed her right away,” her nephew wrote in a biographical profile of Mrs. Alvarez. “Some time later, he asked if she would like to go with him to see ‘Mr. Roberts’ starring Henry Fonda at the Stanley Theater on Howard Street. They remained a couple from that time forward.”
She and her husband were married in 1957 at Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the next year, settled into a home on Lyndale Avenue near Herring Run Park, where they lived with their daughter Donna until 1983, when her husband’s work as a tool and die maker required a move from Baltimore to Cambridge on the Eastern Shore.
“Great dancers, Vic and Claire practiced the jitterbug and other popular dances in Claire’s parents’ basement so they could show off at sock hops on the weekends,” her nephew wrote.
Among her favorite singers were Nat King Cole and Willie Nelson.
“Her and Vic’s favorite song was ‘Too Young,’” said their daughter, Donna Alvarez Mislak of Freeland.
Mrs. Alvarez was an accomplished seamstress who often purchased her patterns at Epstein’s department store on Eastern Avenue in the heart of the Highlandtown shopping district. She made Easter outfits for her grandchildren, and after moving to Cambridge, took in mending.
She was also a talented cross-stitcher, and taught that art to her daughter and a granddaughter.
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Other pastimes included crossword puzzles, card games and board games.
“She liked playing rummy and was very good at Scrabble. The men didn’t play because they couldn’t spell,” her daughter said, with a laugh.
Mrs. Alvarez was a communicant of St. Mary Refuge of Sinners Roman Catholic Church in Cambridge.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered last Thursday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church.
“After the funeral Mass, the hearse drove past my aunt’s childhood home on the way to Sacred Heart of Jesus Cemetery in Dundalk,” her nephew said.
In addition to her husband, daughter and nephew, Mrs. Alvarez is survived by a brother, Frederic Wiegmann Jr. of Rosedale and Richard Wiegmann of Bethesda; two grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
This article has been updated to correct who starred in the movie “Mr. Roberts.” The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.