A Laurel centenarian died June 21, taking with her 105 years of memories from her life in the city.
Catherine Hopkins, who was known as “Miss Katie” among her friends, was born in Laurel on Oct. 6, 1906. Her memories of the city during the last century were included in the Laurel Museum’s 2010 exhibit, “Snapshots in Time: Our Community in 1910 and 2010.”
“A lot of times, the personal perspective is what we lack [in our exhibits],” said Lindsey Baker, executive director of the Laurel Historical Society. “She was literally remembering almost 100 years back.”
Memories like Hopkins’ are especially important to preserving the history of a community, because personal accounts are rare, especially in the African-American community, at the time, Baker said.
Hopkins’ 105 years included lifelong ties to St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Laurel, where she played piano during services for 46 years, until several years ago when stiff fingers and mobility issues kept her from playing, said Jacqueline Jones, a fellow church member and friend.
“She loved the church. That was her life,” said Jones of Laurel, who visited Hopkins every Sunday after church. “She would always ask, every Sunday, ‘Did you take in any new members today?’”
Helen Crutchfield grew up across the street from Hopkins’ home on the corner of 9th and West streets, she said, where Hopkins lived until 2005, when she had a stroke and moved to Patuxent River Health and Rehabilitation Center in Laurel.
“Her memory was better than mine,” Crutchfield said of Hopkins. “When I would visit her at the nursing home, she would always say, ‘Tell everyone I know I say hello.’ And she remembered just about everybody, too.”
Hopkins never married, but lived with her sister, Ethel Baker, who died in 1997, just 17 days short of her 100th birthday.
Hopkins worked as a custodian at St. Mildred’s Academy in Laurel, the University of Maryland, College Park, and the former O.W. Phair Elementary School in Laurel, Crutchfield said.
“She was my grandmother, my counselor and my friend,” Jones said. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with my Sundays now.”