Loretta D. Rutkowski, a retired insurance company customer representative who chronicled the history of Perry Hall through generations of residents, died May 21 of complications from a knee infection at Morningside House of Satyr Hill. The Perry Hall resident was 85.
“Loretta Rutkowski had three great loves: her family, her church, and Perry Hall’s history,” wrote Perry Hall’s David Marks, who is the Republican Baltimore County councilman for the fifth district, in an email.
“She was the leading archivist among Perry Hall’s founding families, collecting boxes of photographs and stories that would otherwise be lost forever,” he wrote. “She was a link between Perry Hall’s rural past and its suburban present.”
The former Loretta Dorothy Kahl, daughter of farmers Michael Kahl and Elizabeth Zimmerman Kahl, was born and raised on their 40-acre farm on Forge Road in Perry Hall.
She was a graduate of St. Joseph School, a Fullerton parochial school, and after graduating in 1952 from St. James Business School in East Baltimore, she started as a clerical worker.
She met her future husband, Charles Leonard Rutkowski, when she was 16, while hanging out with cousins and friends at the Little Gunpowder Falls Bridge on Franklinville Road.
“She never learned to swim and would tell the story that one day ‘a guy’ threw her into the falls and it was someone other than her future husband who rescued her from the water, even though he was a bystander of the event,” wrote a daughter, Lorrie A.E. Erdman, of Perry Hall in a biographical profile of her mother.
They married in 1955, and after honeymooning in Niagara Falls, settled in Highwood, Illinois, where her husband, who was in the Army, was stationed at Fort Sheridan, near Chicago.
After her husband was discharged in 1957, the couple moved to an apartment on her parents’ farm, and three years later, they settled with their two children in Parkville.
In 1972, Mrs. Rutkowski went to work part time for Carl J. Meil, an insurance broker, and later joined PSA Insurance and Financial Services in Lutherville, where she was a customer service representative until retiring in 1998.
“In 1996, she moved back to her beloved Perry Hall,” Ms. Erdman wrote.
Mrs. Rutkowski had always been fascinated with Perry Hall’s history and began interviewing area residents and copying historic family photographs, which later culminated in a permanent photo gallery that was installed in Perry Hall’s library.
“They’re pictures of farms, farmhouses and aerial photos of Perry Hall,” her daughter said in a telephone interview.
Mrs. Rutkowski’s research proved invaluable to Mr. Marks when he wrote “Crossroads: The History of Perry Hall.”
“When I wrote this history of Perry Hall book 23 years ago, Loretta Rutkowski was one of those longtime residents who provided an enormous amount of photographs and information to help me complete my work. Stroll the Perry Hall Library. Many of those photographs were provided by Loretta Rutkowski,” wrote Mr. Marks in a Facebook post.
“She was a dear friend who loved this community. I enjoyed our many conversations and always considered her as part of that group with Buddy Butt and Elmer Klein whose carefulness ensured that our heritage would never be forgotten,” Mr. Marks wrote. “We have now lost another Perry Hall elder.”
Mrs. Rutkowski would occasionally set up a Perry Hall photo display at the McDonald’s at the intersection of Joppa and Belair roads to educate residents and passersby of the area’s historical significance, her daughter said.
Mrs. Rutkowski played an instrumental role in working with the church committee that published “Faithful Hearts,” a 150th anniversary history of Fullerton’s St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, founded in 1850.
Her great-grandfather Valentine Kehl, a German immigrant, was one of its founding members and is buried in the old cemetery on the hill at the church, her daughter said in a telephone interview.
Mrs. Rutkowski employed the same techniques when it came to compiling her family’s genealogy by interviewing family members and recording their stories and experiences. She was an active member of the Baltimore County Genealogical Society.
“She was a fantastic note-taker and those early notes have helped build large family trees in later years,” her daughter wrote.
“She always had her hand in something and always kept busy,” Ms. Erdman said in a telephone interview. “She was all about people, family and friends. She simply loved people.”
She also encouraged Kahl family descendants to hold annual reunions the third week of August, a tradition that her late sister, Margaret Marie Dietz, started in the early 1960s as a Fourth of July picnic.
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“Family was the most important love of her life and she did anything and everything she could to be sure we all gathered,” Ms. Erdman wrote.
Mrs. Rutkowski’s other interests included bingo, dancing and music, especially Polish and country music, her daughter said.
Her husband played the accordion as a member of a local orchestra, and she organized large groups who attended dance and parties where the band performed.
As a longtime communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church and member of the St. Joseph Sodality, she helped organize bus trips for the church’s sodality.
Her husband, a Meyer Seed Co. retail clerk, died in 2015.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at her church, located at 8420 Belair Road, Fullerton.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Rutkowski is survived by two sons, Ronald J. Rutkowski of Darlington and Richard M. Rutkowski of Glen Arm; another daughter, Diane P. Peters of Perry Hall; seven grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.