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Medora M. Kaltenbach, former Social Security Administration administrator, dies

In her retirement, Medora M. Kaltenbach traveled the world.
In her retirement, Medora M. Kaltenbach traveled the world. (handout)

Medora M. Kaltenbach, a retired administrator at the Social Security Administration who was known for her needlepoint renderings of East Coast lighthouses, died of bone cancer Saturday at her Southern Shores, North Carolina, home. The former Towson resident was 88.

Medora Marie Kaltenbach, daughter of Edward T. Kaltenbach, an American Oil Co. warehouse manager, and his wife, Sadie Medora Kaltenbach, a homemaker and World War II Bendix Corp. war worker, was born in Baltimore and spent her early years at a home on Ilchester Avenue in the city’s Abell neighborhood before moving with her family to a home on Baltimore Avenue in Towson.

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She was a 1951 graduate of Towson Catholic High School where she played basketball and softball, and earned a bachelor’s degree in French in 1955 from the University of Michigan, where she worked her way through college working as a waitress.

Ms. Kaltenbach briefly taught at Catonsville High School. She loved to travel, but was rebuffed in her efforts to becoming a flight attendant because “her hips were too wide,” said Christopher I. Kaltenbach, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and nephew, who lives in Linthicum.

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In 1955, she began her more than three-decade career with the Social Security Administration and worked as an administrator in Salisbury and later Towson. She retired in 1986. She was also a certified public accountant having passed the CPA exam in 1983.

Shortly after she retired from the SSA, she moved from Towson to Southern Shores on North Carolina’s Outer Banks where she had built a home on a piece of land she had purchased in the mid-1970s.

An ardent Orioles fan, and later of European soccer, she “rooted hard for Barcelona,” her nephew said. She was also an inveterate duckpin bowler and participated in many Baltimore-area leagues and competed in tournaments through the 1970s.

It was through her duckpin bowling that she met Fritz Stern, who became her longtime friend and confidant, and shared her passion for travel. He later moved to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks, and died in the early 2000s.

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For years, Ms. Kaltenbach was an active member of the Outer Banks Woman’s Club and the Duck Woods Country Club where she played mahjong. Her needlepoint lighthouses became fixtures at local craft shows, her nephew said. She also was a volunteer at the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department.

Retirement allowed her to indulge her lifelong passion for travel, and she made scores of trips and visited every continent except Australia, and “when pressed,” her nephew said, “her favorite trip was to the Himalayan nation of Bhutan.”

“The travel bug first bit her in the 1960s, when she would vacation in the Caribbean. But it really took hold after she retired,” her nephew wrote in a biographical profile of Ms. Kaltenbach. “We were all thrilled vicariously through her visits to all sorts of exotic locales: China, Russia, Bhutan, Thailand. She even visited Antarctica.”

Harking back to her university days in Michigan and French studies, she had a special place in her heart for Paris, and in 2006, she purchased a condo, where she spent six months each year speaking French, attending performances at the Palais Garnier, dining on mussels at her favorite bistro and volunteering at the American Library in the city.

“Aunt Medora was a strong, independent woman at a time that wasn’t always seen as a good thing to be,” Mr. Kaltenbach wrote. “She was a role model that our whole family has tried to emulate. She lived life on her own terms, she was unfailingly kind.”

She was a former communicant of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, at Baltimore and Ware avenues, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

In addition to Mr. Kaltenbach, she is survived by another nephew, Thomas H. Kaltenbach of Fallston. Her brother, P. Edward Kaltenbach, a retired dean at Loyola University Maryland, died in 1986.

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