SOMETIMES Catherine Stumm would break off a phone call and say, "I've got to drive the old ladies."
Never mind that the "old ladies" at the Southwest Philadelphia Senior Center were probably 10 to 20 years younger than she was. To Catherine, chronological age meant nothing. It was how you felt, and Catherine was vigorous, fun and rarin' to go well into her 80s.
Catherine M. Stumm, who worked part time at the old G.C. Murphy Co. five-and-dime while raising six children then went to work in the payroll department of the former Quartermaster Depot, a loving family matriarch and devoted churchgoer, died Friday. She was 93 and was living in a nursing home in Attleboro, Mass.
Catherine was born in South Philadelphia to Edward Sherry and the former Helen Coyle. She attended Hallahan High School.
She married Albert E. Stumm on Jan. 2, 1943. He worked in the chemical department of the former Publicker Industries.
When friends crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge and saw the Publicker billboard advertising Old Hickory Bourbon, they would exclaim, "That's where Albert Stumm works!"
Catherine didn't drive a car until she was 50 when she went to work at the Quartermaster Depot, which made military uniforms. By then she had also earned her GED.
Naturally, being the kind of thoughtful, considerate person she was, her belated driving skills were often used to help others. She frequently drove the residents of the Southwest Philadelphia Senior Center to doctors' appointments and elsewhere.
She took dance lessons there to great effect, and studied Spanish for 10 years with lesser success.
Catherine grew up in South Philadelphia and after her marriage, moved to Southwest Philadelphia in 1959. The family moved to Colwyn, Delaware County, in 1993. She moved to Massachusetts in January 2012.
She loved music and dancing. At the senior center, she was a vigorous line-dancer. She could also do a mean Mummers' strut, enjoyed the New Year's Mummers Parade and showed up wherever the string bands were performing.
About 10 years ago at the wedding of her niece Christine Schoenrock guests began doing a new line dance. Catherine was advised to sit it out because she wouldn't know it.
Fat chance! She not only knew the dance, she threw herself into it with her usual high spirits.
Catherine enjoyed taking the grandchildren to Ocean City, N.J., where she would stroll the Boardwalk and watch them do the rides. She could do the merry-go-round, but that was about it.
Of course, she had to load up with saltwater taffy at Shriver's for family and friends back home.
Catherine was a devoted Catholic and over the years attended services at numerous churches in the city and suburbs, finally landing at Blessed Virgin Mary in Darby.
She was also active in programs for handicapped children, since her son Francis is mentally disabled.
"She was a saint," said her daughter-in-law Mary Stumm. "She was very warm, loving and caring, and a lot of fun. When she was 88, she thought she was 68."
Catherine's husband died in December 1991. Besides her son Francis, she is survived by three other sons, Albert E. Stumm Jr., Thomas and Christopher; a daughter, Kathleen DaSilva; a sister, Margaret Toughill; 12 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by another son, Matthew Stumm.
Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Wednesday at Blessed Virgin Mary Church, MacDade Boulevard and Main Street, Darby. Friends may call at 7 p.m. tomorrow and 9 a.m. Wednesday at King Funeral Home, 2649 S. 64th St. Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple.