By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
5:07 PM EST, February 5, 2013
Virginia T. "Ginny" Dobry, a neighborhood activist who was also described as "Patterson Park's one-woman Welcome Wagon," died Sunday from a brain tumor at her North Kenwood Avenue home. She was 79.
"Ginny was such a wonderful person. She made everything fun in the neighborhood while being a neighborhood booster. She loved to have a good time, but was always thinking how she could make things better," said Mary Sloan Roby, a founder of the Friends of Patterson Park.
"She was an early supporter of the Friends of Patterson Park and did as much for the park as she did her neighborhood," said Ms. Roby. "She was sweet and kind."
Jolyn Rademacher Tracy is executive director of Banner Neighborhoods, a community-based Southeast Baltimore nonprofit, where Mrs. Dobry had been secretary and a member of its board.
"She was always smiling and had the energy of several people, and she touched many over the years," Ms. Tracy said. "She was passionate about people living in the neighborhood and passionate about promoting city living. She was dedicated to making the neighborhood the best that it could be."
The daughter of a construction company owner and a homemaker, Virginia Torre was born in Baltimore and raised on East Fayette Street.
She graduated from Patterson High School in 1951 and married Daniel B. Dobry Sr., a Bethlehem Steel Corp. office worker, that year.
In 1956, Mrs. Dobry and her husband moved into the rowhouse in the 100 block of N. Kenwood Ave. where she would live for the rest of her life.
Two of her sisters lived in rowhouses that bracketed hers until they died; another sister still lives across the street.
From 1965 to 1981, Mrs. Dobry worked as a deli clerk at Gunzelman's and later Fellner Meats at the Northeast Market on Monument Street. After her husband's death in 1981, she began studying nursing at the old Johnston School of Practical Nursing.
After becoming a licensed practical nurse, Mrs. Dobry worked from 1984 to 2010, when she retired, at the Augsburg Lutheran Home and Village in Lochearn.
"Her main thing was her community. That was her hobby," said a son, Frank J. Dobry of Hamilton.
Mrs. Dobry had been a member of the old Baltimore-Linwood Neighborhood Association, which was recast into its present incarnation, the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association.
"I just love the neighborhood, and I love the people most of all," Mrs. Dobry told The Baltimore Sun in a 1999 interview.
"They are down-to-earth, practical and kind. We are a very diversified neighborhood as far as education and background goes, and we just kind of all blend together," she said.
"She brought history to the neighborhood and at the same time enthusiasm because it had struggled for such a long time," said Loretta J. Colvin, a nurse practitioner who had lived there for a decade before moving to St. Louis two years ago.
"Ginny brought a desire to see things change for the better. She showed people the value of civic volunteerism and showed them a lot of ways for them to get involved," said Ms. Colvin. "And she just loved young people."
Mrs. Dobry didn't think twice about getting physically involved in the association's work.
"She took part in our cleanups and tree plantings," Ms. Tracy said.
When new residents moved in, Mrs. Dobry, chairwoman of the neighborhood welcoming committee, greeted them with one of her much-sought-after pineapple upside-down cakes and an informational packet.
"These were packets she had put together with useful information. There was information about the trash pickup schedule as well as information about keeping your yard and alley clean," said Ms. Tracy. "She tried to educate people about the neighborhood."
In 2005, Mrs. Dobry told The Baltimore Sun that she had baked 70 cakes in the past year and a half and that it was a sign that people were moving in rather than out.
Not long after Callie J. Schwartz and her husband bought a house and moved to the neighborhood seven years ago, there came a rapping at the door.
"Looking through the peephole, we saw a polite lady with the sweetest-looking eyes staring up at us, and in her hands was a pineapple upside-down cake," said Ms. Schwartz, project coordinator for the Friends of Patterson Park. "She was the first person we met when we moved in."
"She was a Pagoda docent on Sundays and let people in and gave them its history," Ms. Schwartz said.
Anna Custer-Singh, former executive director of Live Baltimore, was another recipient of one of Mrs. Dobry's cakes.
"She was always there as a champion of the neighborhood and had its best interest at heart. An individual's background never mattered to her," Ms. Custer-Singh said. "She was this grandmother-like figure who had open arms for everyone."
Mrs. Dobry attended services at St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church and was a communicant of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic Church, at Baltimore Street and Lakewood Avenue, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday.
In addition to her son, Mrs. Dobry is survived by four other sons, Daniel B. Dobry Jr. of Marietta, Ga., Joseph M. Dobry of Port Wentworth, Ga., Christopher J. Dobry of Hollywood, St. Mary's County, and Matthew D. Dobry of Hamilton; a daughter, Mary Beth Yoncha of Parkville; a sister, Catherine "Kay" Soellner of Patterson Park; and 16 grandchildren.