Edna Goldberg, who was the mainstay of The Baltimore Sun's Harford County bureau for nearly two decades, died Wednesday of cardiac arrest at Courtland Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Northwest Baltimore. The Bel Air resident was 91.
"Edna had no journalism experience and was the best natural reporter I've ever known. She was very aggressive, and I mean that in the best sense of the word," said James S. Keat, a retired Sun assistant managing editor.
"They weren't used to having someone like Edna in Harford County who didn't like being shut out of things," recalled Mr. Keat. "One time she followed a county official who had been avoiding her into the men's room. Nothing stood between Edna and a story."
"She was a real professional and knew how to dig up news in the area that she was covering," said John H. Plunkett, another retired Sun assistant managing editor. "Edna was a very conscientious reporter, and anyone who came in contact with her in Harford County had nothing but respect for her. She knew her beat and knew how to deal with people."
The daughter of Eastern European immigrants, Edna Green was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and was raised in Brooklyn, where she graduated from high school at 15.
Even though her parents, who owned a candy store, were uneducated, they placed a high emphasis on schooling.
"My mother completed 12 years of grades — one to 12 — in 10 years, so she graduated at 15," said a son, Mark Goldberg of Crystal Lake, Ill.
Mr. Goldberg said his mother often studied late into the night. "She kept this pattern of long hours of work when she went to work for The Sun," her son said.
After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in political science, she worked during World War II as a secretary in New York City and, after the war, for the Blackstone Advertising Agency.
In 1952, she married Solomon S. Goldberg, a lawyer. They moved to Bel Air in 1953 after her husband was named contract attorney adviser at the Army's Chemical Center at the former Edgewood Arsenal.
While raising her two sons, Mrs. Goldberg thought she might like to teach school, but after briefly attending college to gain a teaching certificate, abandoned that notion and immersed herself in public affairs in Harford County.
She was serving as president of the Harford County League of Women Voters when The Baltimore Sun hired her in 1969 to cover the county for the newspaper.
"At that time, the way we covered the counties was not too good, so we turned to Edna, who knew Harford County and its government," said Mr. Keat. "She was the kind of person who broached no nonsense from anyone, including her editors."
Mrs. Goldberg wrote extensively about the switch in 1972 from the county commissioner form of government to charter home rule, with Charles B. Anderson Jr. serving as Harford County's first county executive from 1974 to 1978.
"She was a great character, and I remember when Edna chased Charlie Anderson into the men's room," Habern W. Freeman, who served as county executive from 1982 to 1990, said with a laugh. "She was an incredible investigative reporter and often had my budget before I did."
Mr. Freeman said he had nothing but the "highest, highest respect" for Mrs. Goldberg. "She was the typical newspaper reporter who kept government honest. You didn't get away with anything with Edna," he said.
Mrs. Goldberg was fiercely competitive with her Evening Sun counterparts, who shared the office, and did not like being beaten on a story. Evening Sun staffers recalled Mrs. Goldberg calling her husband each afternoon and discussing her stories in Yiddish so she wouldn't tip off other reporters.
Lee Baylin, a former Evening Sun reporter who is now a Towson attorney, recalled interviewing the county's new public works director.
"He was giving me his recipe for fettuccine Alfredo when I saw Edna outside. I went over and closed the windowed door to his office and continued to write in my notebook," recalled Mr. Baylin. "Later, she demanded to know what he told me, and I only smiled and told the truth: 'It was a recipe.' She fumed for a week."
"Oh, my God, she was a pistol. She was a force to be reckoned with if you were not on the up and up," said Todd Holden, a former Aegis reporter. "When she came on the scene with the mighty Sunpapers, she wasn't the most cordial of reporters, but she made up for it with good writing which was thorough and fair."
Doug Birch, a former Evening Sun reporter, said he used to put down fake appointments in his desk calendar, which resulted in Mrs. Goldberg making "discreet calls to the person I was supposedly meeting," he said.
"I always admired and liked Edna. She was wonderfully ethical and always came down on the side of right," said Mr. Birch.
"Edna certainly knew where all the bodies were buried, and she worked doggedly to shine a light on government," said David Michael Ettlin, a retired Baltimore Sun editor and longtime friend. "She did not believe in government secrecy and did her best to shine her light."
In 1982, she took a spin in the Army's 60-ton M-1 tank at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
"I earned the dubious distinction of being the first woman reporter, according to Army officials, ever to fire the 105-mm high-velocity gun mounted on the tank turret," she wrote.
"For someone who has never even held a gun, it was surprisingly easy. I was even able to hit the target smack on the nose from nearly 2,000 meters (that's about 1.2 miles) — with the help of a computer," she wrote.
Mrs. Goldberg retired in 1987.
Graveside services were held Friday at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, N.Y.
Mrs. Goldberg is also survived by another son, Alan S. Goldberg of Madison, Wis.; a sister, Adele Weiss of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and two grandchildren. Her husband died in 2011.