Doris E. Koerner, retired longtime church secretary and former duckpin bowler, dies

Doris E. Koerner, a retired longtime church secretary who was an outstanding local duckpin bowler during the late 1940s and early 1950s, died of heart failure Saturday at her home in Phoenix in Baltimore County She was 95.

“When she died, she went out of the same door of her home that she came through as a new bride in 1949,” said a daughter, Peg Bjorlin of Wauseon, Ohio.


The former Doris Elizabeth Shade, daughter of Frank Shade, a carpenter, and Mary Seitz Shade, was born at home in Riderwood.

Raised on Ellenham Road, Mrs. Koerner was a 1943 graduate of Towson High School, where she had been an outstanding softball and basketball player.


She began working in the claims department of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad downtown in its Annex Building.

While working for the B&O, she met and fell in love with a fellow railroad employee, Wilbur S. Koerner.

“Mom and Dad eloped,” her daughter said.

“She told her parents on the morning of Sept. 16, 1949, that she was going to a softball game, but on her lunch hour, she went downtown and bought a dress,” Mrs. Bjorlin said. “My dad then picked her up after work and they drove up into the country to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sweet Air and were married. She then called her parents to tell them, and the rest is history.”

Mrs. Koerner joined the B&O bowling league in 1945 and two years later participated in major duckpin leagues.

She later became a teammate of the legendary Elizabeth “Toots” Barger, who for nearly a quarter of a century won every local tournament championship, won every major duckpin tournament in the nation and held every world record in the sport, and was known as “duckpin bowling’s equivalent of Babe Ruth,” according to The Sun.

Mrs. Barger, known as the “Queen of Duckpins,” who in 1961 became the second woman to be inducted into the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame, died in 1998.

Mrs. Koerner rolled her last game in 1954, family members said.


After leaving the B&O in the early 1950s, Mrs. Koerner worked at Rice’s Bakery in Jacksonville in Baltimore County.

In 1964, she became secretary at St. John’s Evangelical Church, a job she held until retiring in 1989.

An active congregant, Mrs. Koerner served on the church council and on numerous committees. She taught Sunday school, and beginning in 1984, she led apple butter-making parties and helped organize the church’s Country Fair Day.

“She also planned funeral buffets and took charge of ordering all of the food, salads and cakes,” her daughter said. “Since 1972, she has organized 197 buffets, including her last one in August.”

Mrs. Koerner also kept in touch by phone with church members who were shut-ins.

“Ever since the arrival of COVID-19, she’d say ‘I have a list of five or six people I have to call today,’” her daughter said. “She had her church list and people were her thing. She was all about everyone else and wanted them to be happy.”


Mrs. Koerner was gifted with a steel trap memory.

“At 95, her mind was still sharp as a tack,” Mrs. Bjorlin said. “People would call from church asking about something that happened last week or 30 years ago and she remembered everything.”

She was a longtime volunteer at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

Through the years, Mrs. Koerner enjoyed hosting oyster roasts and pig roasts for B&O employees and retirees at her 4 1/2-acre home.

She was an avid Orioles fan and liked following the Maryland Terrapins men’s and women’s teams.

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Her daughter said she also liked sipping a bourbon Manhattan with a visiting grandson, and when he wasn’t around, she enjoyed a honey whiskey and water, her daughter said.


She and her husband liked taking trips to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

“They did everything together and that showed us what married life was all about,” her daughter said.

Her husband, who became director of data processing operations at the Chessie System, a successor company to the B&O, died in 2017.

“One of the last things she said before she died was, ‘I’ve had a wonderful life and I’d do it all over again if I could,’” Mrs. Bjorlin said.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at her church at 3911 Sweet Air Road in Phoenix, where she was a member for 73 years.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by another daughter, Karen Allen of Timonium; a sister, Margie Martin; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

For the record

This article has been updated to correct the time of the funeral and the name of a daughter. The Baltimore Sun regrets the errors.