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Katharine R. Stierhoff, Baltimore County housing activist and active League of Women Voters member, dies

Katharine Ridgely “Kitty” Stierhoff helped form the Baltimore County Housing Coalition and served as its vice president.
Katharine Ridgely “Kitty” Stierhoff helped form the Baltimore County Housing Coalition and served as its vice president.

Katharine Ridgely “Kitty” Stierhoff, a stalwart member of the Baltimore County League of Women Voters who was an affordable housing advocate, died of sepsis March 3 at Gilchrist Hospice Towson. She was 91 and had lived in Ruxton.

Born in Baltimore and raised on 39th Street, she was the daughter of Chase Ridgely Sr., president of J. Ramsay Barry Insurance, and his wife, Katharine Supplee, a homemaker.

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She was a 1948 graduate of Bryn Mawr School and attended Converse College.

She met her future husband, Hugh Leonard Stierhoff, at a party.

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One of her sons, Lee Stierhoff, said she encountered her future husband when he dozed off during the evening. She awakened him and chided him on his manners. They married June 16, 1950.

Mrs. Stierhoff became an advocate of women’s issues and believed in the power of the vote. She joined the League of Women Voters and became a volunteer worker for the group in the early 1960s.

She also became affiliated with the newly created Baltimore County League of Women Voters’ board in 1966, said another son, Paul Stierhoff, a resident of Westfield, New Jersey.

“Housing was very important to her. She wanted housing affordable for people of less means,” her son Lee said.

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Her sons said she was instrumental in establishing the first office for the Baltimore County League of Women Voters in Towson and managed that office for many years. She organized volunteers and disseminated information to the membership and broader community. She also worked on annual voters’ guides.

Mrs. Stierhoff also served on the board of what is now called the Community Assistance Network as the league’s representative.

“My mother was not a loud advocate, but she was persistent,” said her son, Lee Stierhoff.

While with the League of Women Voters, she became active in promoting affordable housing.

“While serving as the League’s Housing Chair in the late ’80s, she worked to establish a livability code for Baltimore County and lobbied representatives to successfully pass affordable housing bond bills in 1992 and 1994,” her son Paul said.

Mrs. Stierhoff also helped form the Baltimore County Housing Coalition and served as its vice president.

“She was also instrumental in establishing the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland and served as a board member from 1980 to 1995,” her son Paul said.

Mrs. Stierhoff remained interested in fair and affordable housing issues and served on a Baltimore County advisory council working to eliminate discriminatory housing policies.

In a 1992 Sun story, Mrs. Stierhoff said, “It’s fear, fear of the unknown.”

“Racism plays a part in that fear,” she said.

She cited Baltimore County’s reluctance to address housing issues that went back decades. She said county residents held attitudes against housing for the poor for many years.

After living in Ruxton and on Ashland Road she moved to the Broadmead Retirement Community in Cockeysville. While there she did not relinquish her sense of civic engagement. She served in various leadership positions, including chair, on the Broadmead Residents Association.

“When it became clear that the York Road entrance/exit to and from Broadmead was unsafe and represented a hazard to residents and visitors of Broadmead, my mother was active in representing the interest of the community to state and county officials,“ her son Paul said.

“She was an advocate for a traffic light or new safer traffic pattern. She was successful in her efforts and while not yet complete, work has started to improve the intersection and make it safer.”

He said his mother enjoyed traveling with her husband and their friends. They visited Europe and many parts of the Southwest United States. They visited a child they financially sponsored on a Native American reservation. They also collected Southwest-themed artwork.

“She was never happier than when she was surrounded by family. She was a good cook and enjoyed big events,” her son Paul said. “She always thoroughly enjoyed family events that brought the whole family together.”

In addition to her two sons, survivors include two daughters, Dorothea Stierhoff of Baltimore and Peggy Mahaney of Georgetown, Texas; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Her husband of 64 years, an insurance executive, died in 2014.

The family will hold a private ceremony to inter her ashes at the Church of the Good Shepherd, where she had been a member. A memorial service will be held at a later time.

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