Sunday, January 11, 2004

Mary Jane Fleming, 83, longtime volunteer

'Bingo Lady' worked in OTR soup kitchen

By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Retired nurse and volunteer Mary Jane Schrichte Fleming was known as "The Bingo Lady" and the "Hat Lady" by family and friends alike.

Mrs. Fleming ran the Tuesday bingo games at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Over-the-Rhine and wore showy hats everywhere.

"She never went anywhere without a hat," said Jan Weber, former manager of volunteers at Drake Center. "Her personality was as flamboyant as her hat."

Mrs. Fleming died Dec. 25 at Meadowbrook Nursing Home in Montgomery. The Montgomery resident was 83.

She graduated from Notre Dame Academy in 1939 and earned her Registered Nursing certificate from Good Samaritan Hospital in 1946. In 1947, she married William T. Fleming of Cincinnati. He died in 1965.

She began her 50-year nursing career at Good Samaritan Hospital and later worked at the former Providence Hospital, which is now Mercy Franciscan Hospital in Mount Airy.

Mrs. Fleming also worked part-time jobs providing medical help in case of emergency at the Cincinnati Convention Center and the Cincinnati Reds' night games. Mrs. Fleming volunteered extensively. She worked with the American Red Cross nurses disaster unit, and she helped with the recovery work in the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire.

She was inducted into the Drake Hospital Hall of Fame for 10 years of volunteer service.

"She helped me put together a patients relations program at Drake to welcome people," said Ms. Weber. "She was marvelous the way she interacted with the patients."

For 26 years, she volunteered in Over-the-Rhine soup kitchens, first at St. Francis and later at Our Daily Bread, working the soup lines and handing out handshakes and hugs.One of her daughters, Katie Shapiro of Montgomery, said her mother would wander Over-the-Rhine to help people, often helping them find shelter.

"We would buy her a coat for the winter - she'd give it to someone at the soup kitchen who needed it. She had such a drive for life," Shapiro said. "Her family feels she is a shining light in the hereafter and they're lucky to have her."

Survivors include two other daughters, Maureen Mick of Cleveland and Kierin Fleming-Summers of Blue Ash; two sons, Tim of Corona, Calif., and Patrick of Columbus, Ohio; and six grandchildren.

Services have been held. Burial was in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Montgomery.

Memorials can be made to Our Daily Bread, 1730 Race St., Cincinnati, Ohio 45210.


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