Mildred "Millie" Baynor, a 21-year employee at the Enoch Pratt central library and longtime Baltimore social worker, died Tuesday at her Gwynn Oak home after a brief illness. She was 89.
The daughter of William McKinley Kirkland and Mildred Vivian Brooks Kirkland, Mildred Louise Kirkland was born on April 4, 1926, and spent much of her life in Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. She was the only daughter in a family of five children, growing up near Pennsylvania Avenue with the shops, jazz clubs and churches of its heyday.
Central to her life was her faith, her granddaughter Torena Brown said.
"She was inspiration to us," Mrs. Brown said. "She had so many prayer cards she gave us when we were going through stuff. She had her Bible. She lived out the teaching of Christ."
Ms. Baynor contributed to several ministries at her church, St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church, where she was a lifelong member. She volunteered in soup kitchens, distributed Christmas baskets and was active in the Legion of Mary, the Golden Agers and Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. Peter Claver.
"She was great helper," Mrs. Brown said. "She helped pretty much anybody in need. She was always a good spirit. People liked having her around. They enjoyed her smile."
One of her first jobs after graduating from high school in the early 1940s was as a munitions factory worker at Edgewood Arsenal during World War II. She also worked with her mother at a laundry in southeast Baltimore, where they cleaned, folded and pressed hospital sheets. The close-knit pair was known as "Big Millie" and "Little Millie."
Ms. Baynor went on to have a career as a social worker in Baltimore, where she worked as a case manager helping families in need receive food stamps and access other services.
While working for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, Ms. Baynor enrolled at Coppin State College, as it was known at the time, and began taking night classes at age 51. She graduated about five years later with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
She retried in the early 1990s after 20 years at the social services agency, but never stopped working, her family said. She loved to baby sit and travel with her various church and senior groups, but by 1994 she started working full time at the Pratt's human resources department.
"It was only supposed to be part-time," Ms. Baynor's daughter, Cynthia D. Jones, said. "Mama never complained about how she felt, if she had aches or pains. She kept moving. She was a woman who made sure she gave a piece of herself to everybody."
Jack Kinsella, her supervisor and longtime friend, called Ms. Baynor "the hardest working person." She was the department's receptionist, answering phones and scheduling drug tests and physicals as part of the hiring process for new library staff members.
"She was always the first one at work," Mr. Kinsella said. "She was extremely hard working and loyal. She was deeply, deeply respected."
The library was well served by Ms. Baynor's social work background, he said. People in need of work often come to the library's human resources department, and Ms. Baynor handled their inquiries with a kind and helping spirit, Mr. Kinsella said.
But Ms. Baynor also had a tough side, he recalled. "You couldn't push her around."
Mr. Kinsella was impressed by Ms. Baynor for another reason: At age 89, she bought herself a new car, a 2005 sea foam green Nissan Altima. She had given her old car to one of her grandsons and didn't want to rely on anyone else for transportation.
The night before her death, she was singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" with a co-worker, he said.
"She was a gem to have," he said. "She taught us all something."
A friend of 25 years, Helen Graham, said Ms. Baynor was a calming influence, and a woman who was devoted to her family.
"I wish I could live as long as Mildred lived, and be as youthful," she said. "She was a model for you to follow."
Thomasina J. Matthews, said the two traveled to many places, including Times Square in New York City, during their 35-year friendship. Mrs. Matthews said she will miss her talks with Ms. Baynor, and their ability to laugh "despite whatever was going on."
"She had such a wonderful air about her," she said. "She was just so open, and a lady of integrity. You could pick it up just by meeting her. She was pleasant all the time."
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Gregory, 1542 N. Gilmor St.
She will buried in Loudon Park Cemetery after the Mass.
Besides her daughter and granddaughter, Ms. Baynor is survived by a son, Michael Baynor, and seven additional grandchildren, Barbara Baynor, Tavon Harris, Shanita Brown, Dominique Branch, Mikeia Baynor, Michael Baynor Jr., and Yessenia Baynor. She had 18 great-grandchildren, 13 great-great-grandchildren and two great-great-great-grandchildren.
Ms. Baynor was preceded in death by a son, Lloyd Baynor Jr., and her long-time companion, George Harris, who both died about 10 years ago.
An earlier marriage to the late Lloyd Baynor ended in divorce in 1966.