Jarnetta Kroh, a Greater Baltimore Medical Center philanthropist who assisted her husband in his import car servicing business, died Nov. 25 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder at her home in Laguna Hills, Calif. She was 81 and had lived in the Rockland section of Baltimore County for many years.
Jarnetta Althea Jarvis was born in Spencer, W.Va., and raised in Walton, W.Va., where her father was postmaster. Her mother was a secretary to a May Co. department store executive.
A graduate of Walton High School, she earned an associate's degree at Charleston Business School.
She married and had a son, Edward Reed, who was born with a cleft palate.
"She was a tenacious mother," Mr. Reed said. "She let nothing stand in the way of my surgeries I needed."
He said his mother's marriage failed when he was an infant. She decided to leave rural West Virginia and come to Baltimore, where she heard there were surgeons who could correct her son's condition.
"We didn't have anything. We were poor," said Mr. Reed, who lives in Mission Viejo, Calif. "But to her, I was the most beautiful thing in the world."
He said his mother sought medical attention for him at St. Agnes Hospital and carried him to appointments on buses and streetcars. When he was ready for school, she found a speech therapist, a teacher at William Paca School at Lakewood Avenue and Fayette Street in East Baltimore.
"She researched everything," he said. "She rented a place specifically near the school."
A longtime friend, Jane Zeman, who lives in Timonium, said, "It was a very brave thing to do. She got a job, all on her own. But that was her way. She was a simple, thoroughly giving person."
Her son said she took several buses to get to her job as a secretary at the Maryland Transportation and Trucking Co. in the Brooklyn section of Baltimore. There she met her future husband, William Kroh, who was struggling to become established as an accountant and attending law school at night. They married in 1960.
"She became the power behind the man," her son said. "I can remember a time when they had just paid off a mortgage on our home. But my father needed funds for a new venture. She said, 'OK, let's remortgage. I'll take that risk with you.'"
Mr. Kroh built and operated successful marine automobile terminals, initially at the Dundalk Marine Terminal. He did business with major automakers. As their business grew, the Krohs built a second home in California, where she assisted in entertaining overseas automakers and shippers and their spouses.
"Jarnetta was a likable person who had a mind of her own," said Victor Frenkil Jr., a close friend who lives in Glyndon. "She was forceful and sincere in her beliefs."
"She was a warm woman with a nice sense of humor who was a very supportive wife," said Dr. Robert Brookland, GBMC chair of radiation oncology and chair of the hospital's foundation. "She had a desire to give back out of gratitude because of Bill being successfully treated for colon cancer. Jarnetta loved the idea that you could prevent someone from having to go through what Bill did."
The couple endowed a center for digestive disorders. They gave $2 million themselves and led a fundraising campaign that brought in more than $35 million.
Mrs. Kroh was a fancier of thoroughbred horses.
"I think she loved the animals more than the races themselves," her son said.
They also made extended trips on ocean liners.
"She was an exceptional cook in the Southern style," her son said. "She could make green beans with bacon, mashed potatoes with a secret ingredient I think was cream cheese, red-eye gravy and biscuits, and absolutely delicious corn bread."
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to her son, survivors include a daughter, Janet Kroh of Carlsbad, Calif.; two granddaughters; and a great-granddaughter. Her husband died in 2011.