Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Accokeek columnist leaves legacy of words

Weekly column enjoys large south county readership for more than 45 years

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Katie Gilroy, 72, devoted her life to her family and to her town, writing a local column cherished by Accokeek residents for more than 45 years.

She died Saturday at St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown after a brief illness.

‘‘She just loved that column,” said Debra Gilroy, her daughter. ‘‘She was religious about it.”

Katie Gilroy, a Mechanicsville resident, was born May 7, 1935 in Rison to Gertrude Geiger and Alfred Brand. She was raised in Ironsides with her younger sister, Lorie Elizabeth, and attended Charles County Public Schools. Her father died when she was 3, and her mother worked the farm and raised the children until she remarried in 1941.

In 1950, Katie Gilroy married Melvin E. Gilroy. The couple settled in Accokeek in the early 1950s. During their stay in southern Prince George’s County, Gilroy worked several jobs including stints at Remington Rand Corporation and Cort Cosmetics, a forerunner to Avon.

In 1962, she started writing a column for the Enquirer-Gazette.

Katie Gilroy’s daughter, Debra Gilroy, said she remembers her mother sitting down to write the column every Sunday night.

‘‘She would sit at her phone stand with her notepad every Sunday night,” she said.

For 45 years, Katie Gilroy maintained a book of birthdays and anniversaries. She also received newsletters from community groups asking her to put items of interest in her column.

She always typed her column on a typewriter. She used to use an old Royal typewriter, but, according to her daughter, switched to a portable typewriter about 10 years ago.

‘‘She would never use the computer,” Debra Gilroy said.

Lori Grimes, Katie Gilroy’s sister, said everyone in Accokeek relied on the weekly column.

‘‘We were at a yard sale for the Accokeek firehouse and a lady came up to us and told us that she had a house in Bethany but whenever someone would come to visit they would have to bring the paper so she could read the column,” Grimes said.

In between writing columns, Katie Gilroy also worked as a school bus driver in Accokeek from 1969 to 1990 and as a mail carrier from 1989 to 2005.

‘‘She really enjoyed driving the bus and being with people,” Debra Gilroy said. ‘‘She loved the kids in the area and even drove me to school my senior year in high school.”

Katie Gilroy moved to Mechanicsville in 1989 but continued to pen her column on Accokeek.

Evelyn Scott, a friend of Katie Gilroy’s from her days in Accokeek, said everyone loved the column.

‘‘We always talked about her column,” Scott said. ‘‘And she used to write about my children frequently.”

Scott moved to Waldorf around the same time Katie Gilroy moved to Mechanicsville. But they kept in touch and took casino trips to Dover, Del.

‘‘We just took a trip in October,” Scott said. ‘‘We hashed over old times and talked about the column.”

Even in her final days Katie worried about her column.

‘‘Even when she was in the hospital, she worried about it,” Grimes said. ‘‘I said, ‘They know you’re good for it.’ But she kept worrying about it.”

Debra Gilroy said while her mother was in the hospital Jan. 27, her mother dictated her column to her. Debra Gilroy transcribed it on the computer and brought it back for her to proofread.

Katie Gilroy is survived by her five children, Lynn Gilroy, 56, of La Plata; Debra Gilroy, 53, of Mechanicsville; Dennis Gilroy, 50, of Indian Head; Karen Sydnor, 49, of Mechanicsville; and Cindie Pellos, 43, of Charleston, S.C., 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

A memorial is scheduled for 10 a.m. today at Calvary Grace Assembly of God Church, 10774 Charles St. in La Plata with interment to follow at Trinity Memorial Gardens in Waldorf. A fellowship breakfast was to be held this afternoon at the La Plata firehouse.

Contributions can be made to the St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation at St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown.

E-mail Ryan McDermott at