Florence M. Binau

November 05, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Four generations are shown in this photograph taken in the 1970s. In front is April McNamee (now Startzman), second row, from left, Mary Margaret "Mamie Ruth" Moberly (Babe Ruth's sister and Florence's mother) and Florence Binau (Babe Ruth's niece). Jan McNamee, Florence's daughter and mother of April, is in the back.
Submitted photo

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Florence M. Binau, who died Oct. 23 at the age of 92. Her obituary was published in the Oct. 25 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Florence Binau's family tree had famous connections — in both her family and her husband's family — but she preferred life in the background instead of the limelight.

"The Moberlys and Binaus had more than their fair share of fame and absolutely no fortune," wrote Florence's daughter Jan McNamee in the remarks she read at her mother's funeral.

Florence's mother, Mary Margaret "Mamie Ruth" Moberly, was the sister of baseball legend Babe Ruth.

"Mother ignored the whole thing. She did whatever she had to help her mother get to things (for Babe). Uncle Babe was no big deal to her," said Jan, who noted her mother did not accept personal invitations relating to Uncle Babe.

Florence remembers the Babe visiting their home in Baltimore when she was young because Mamie Ruth was his only living relative, Jan said.

"He was very attentive to her and to children in general," added Jan, who lives in Hagerstown.

On the Binau side of the family, Florence's husband's aunt was Mrs. Filbert, the founder of the company whose mayonnaise, margarine and sandwich spread bore her name.

"It was always Uncle Babe and Aunt Maddy to us," Jan said.

Florence was the only child in her family to survive — her parents lost two sons in infancy. Her own son died in 1999, when he was 54.

As a teenager, Florence worked at The Baltimore Sun. She grew up in the same Baltimore neighborhood as her future husband, Robinson John Binau Jr. They were married 64 years when he died.

Their size difference was striking, with Robinson standing about 6 feet 2 inches tall and Florence barely breaking the 5-foot mark.

"My grandfather was a very big man and my grandmother was a very tiny woman," said only grandchild April Startzman of Williamsport. She and her husband, Bryan, have two daughters.

Florence was known by her family for her care of them.

"Mother was just a Ph.D. in domestic engineering," Jan said. "We all thought Dad was the boss, but we knew where the influence was."

Dinner was served without fail at 5 p.m. on the dot. All of the family's holiday meals were served in Florence's home, just as they had been in her mother's.

Florence enjoyed new gadgets, especially her first dishwasher, and shopping was high on her list. She earned several blue ribbons with her edible entries at the Great Hagerstown Fair, Jan said.

She was committed to the Catholic church and the family attended "very regularly." They worshiped at St. Mary's early on, then Jan took Florence with her to St. Ann's.

Despite her quiet personality, Florence had a great sense of humor.

"She didn't tell the jokes. She just made you enjoy them as well. She delighted in my brother's humor," Jan said.

Florence had a kind, calm bedside manner and was called to sit with a friend who was diagnosed with a stomach aneurysm, Jan said. Florence also took her mother in and cared for her during her battle with pancreatic cancer, until she could no longer care for her at home.

"My brother and I called her Mighty Mouse. She was tiny, but a real gift to us," Jan said.

The Binaus moved to Hagerstown in 1946, repeatedly returning after living other places. They lived in the Washington, D.C., area, Cumberland and Florida, moving back about 1981.

"Hagerstown was a magnet for our side of the family," Jan said.

"That's a family thing. I've done it, my mother's done it," April said.

In the 1970s, Robinson bought an Airstream travel trailer, sold the family home and the couple hit the road, traveling all over the United States, Mexico and Canada for four years. Florence had a handblown glass paperweight collection that showcased their travels.

"Daddy sold the house out from under us. They traveled the wild blue yonder," Jan said.

What did Florence think about life on the road?

"My dad liked to travel. My mother liked my dad," Jan said with a laugh. "It was something my dad could relax at. My mother never got away from the cooking, cleaning, clothes washing."

Described as a "doting grandmother," Florence delighted in having April stay with them in the Airstream.

The Binaus were part of an Airstream club in the 1970s called the Wally Byam Caravan Club International. The  club promoted the use of Airstreams for travel, according to Wikipedia, and Jan said they were part of a group that toured with European diplomats visiting the United States and traveling in Airstream trailers.

After settling in Hagerstown, the couple lived in several apartment complexes before living at Loyalton, Robinwood and then Homewood.

"When daddy went to Homewood, mother had no objections to moving to Homewood Assisted Living to be near him," Jan said.

Florence moved to Coffman's Nursing Home about five years ago. It was in the past month that her health really deteriorated.

"Mom has had a long haul," Jan said.

For Florence, family always came first.

"I come from an interesting family," Jan said. "The greatest gift I can give April is to exemplify my mom."

The Herald-Mail Articles