Mary Ludlow, Baroness von Zollikofer Altenklingen

Mary Ludlow,

Baroness von Zollikofer Altenklingen

1826 – 1907

By Robert H. Hitchings

Sargeant’s Chronicles, Volume 1 – Number 4 – Summer 2007


Americans have always been fascinated by royalty, the wealthy blue-bloods of Europe.  We are bombarded in the tabloids and on the news of the goings on of these titled few.  Many Americans spend years trying to find a relationship to European royalty.  At one time, persons who could not prove a blue-blood heritage often tried to marry into a rich noble European family.  And this is what one Norfolk-born American woman did.  She was not actually seeking a titled husband, But they found each other anyway.


er name was Mary Ludlow.  She was the daughter of a doctor but her parents died at an early age and she was raised by her uncle, William Garnett, a banker.  At the age of 23, she married her childhood sweetheart, Dr. Henry Seldon and had three beautiful children.  Unfortunately, domestic bliss was not in her future, for in the summer of 1855 she lost her husband and two of their children in an epidemic of yellow fever.  Tragedy struck again in December of 1861 when she lost her last surviving child Henry Seldon, Jr.  Mary was devastated and to make things worse, the storm clouds of the Civil War were beginning to roll into Virginia.  By May 1862, Norfolk was occupied by Union forces and many Norfolk families were turned out of their homes.  It was an unhappy time for many Norfolk citizens.  We were a conquered people.maryludlow

Mary Ludlow Seldon became a spitfire and a thorn in the side of the Union soldiers.  She stood up to Union forces and the occupying troops wasted no time in sending her by train to Washington, D.C.  It was in Washington, D.C. that she met a former friend, Dr. William Zollikofer of Baltimore, Maryland, a colleague of her former husband.  After the war they married.  While traveling in Europe one summer, Mary learned that her husband’s aged great uncle, the Baron von Zollikofer of Austria-Hungary, was childless and her husband was next in line to inherit the title and vast estate.  When the old Baron passed away, Dr. Zollikofer, being American born, quickly dismissed the idea of accepting the title.  However, he passed away unexpectedly in 1882 before he could put his wishes in writing.  The rest is history.  Mary Ludlow Seldon Zollikofer accepted the title and became the new Baroness Zollikofer Altenklingen of Austria-Hungary.

With her new title, all the doors of European royalty opened up to her.  She became a noted figure in European royal circles.  She had lavish parties and entertained the Pope, cardinals, dukes, the Czar, and princes at her palace in Rome.  She met all the crown heads of Europe, including Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary.  It was at a private audience with the old Emperor that Franz Joseph said, with a twinkle in his eye, “I understand, Baroness, you are an American.”  She quickly replied, “No sire, I am a Virginian.”  And the old Emperor chuckled as he understood.

The Baroness never returned to America.  However, she kept in touch with a few friends and when died on October 29th 1907, her body was brought back from Rome to lie next to her first husband and children in Elmwood Cemetery.  The story does not end there.  In her will, Mary generously started a home, the Mary Ludlow Home, for homeless Norfolk women who had no place to live.  It opened in April 1918.  When the trustees closed the home in 1963 after the last of the residents had passed on, the monies from the sale of the house were turned over to The Norfolk Foundation, an organization that helps so many today.

Mary Ludlow Seldon, Baroness Zollikofer, was not seeking a royal title, the title found her, and with this title came a fortune.  She never forgot her home, her friends, or the city of Norfolk that she loved so dearly.

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ForKids Converts Suffolk House Emergency Shelter to Mobile Services to Help More Families

(June 2, 2011, Norfolk, VA) – In response to declining funding for emergency shelters and the need to better assist a wide geographic service area, ForKids announces it will transition Suffolk House Emergency Shelter to an innovative Emergency Service, Rapid Re-Housing and Prevention Center for families as of July 1, 2011. The new program will offer:

  • Emergency sheltering through a hotel voucher program to provide homeless families with up to 30 days of shelter throughout Suffolk and Western Tidewater. Families will no longer have to relocate out of their communities to access shelter
  • Direct assistance with utilities, rent and security deposits to prevent homelessness and rapidly re-house families who have slipped into homelessness
  • Intensive in-home case management for at-risk and homeless families that will be linked to cash assistance and provide aftercare to maintain family stability
  • High-quality mental health services and ForKids’ signature children’s services delivered throughout the region by a mobile team

Families will connect to the services through the ForKids regional call center.

After operating Suffolk House for two years, ForKids observed that many Western Tidewater families weren’t making it to their shelter in downtown Suffolk due to transportation barriers and the fear of losing their employment, support networks and changing schools.  This, coupled with a dramatic decline in government and institutional funding for the shelter, led them to look for a better way to provide services for families.

Explaining the rationale behind the program change ForKids CEO, Thaler McCormick, said, “Our current model in Suffolk has become unsustainable due to deep cuts in funding for the emergency shelter. So we’ve worked hard to redesign a forward-thinking program to ensure uninterrupted service to families in need. Through this new plan, we believe will be able to serve more families through the broad service area of Suffolk House and avoid relocating families out of their school and work communities. Constant dislocation is brutal on kids. ”

The ForKids Emergency Services and Prevention Team will operate from Suffolk House and the residential wing will be temporarily closed off to reduce costs. The ForKids Board and management will spend the upcoming months considering the best use of the residential wing and will likely consider a conversion of the space to Permanent Supportive Housing or Transitional Housing; two services currently unavailable and badly needed for families in Suffolk and Western Tidewater.

ForKids, inc. is a non-profit agency with a mission of breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and children. ForKids currently serves approximately 200 families, and over 400 children in South Hampton Roads and Western Tidewater.  The agency provides emergency shelter, transitional and permanent supportive housing, aftercare and homelessness prevention programs for families in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton County. Children’s services include tutoring, educational enrichment programs, field trips, summer camps, and counseling.  Adult programs include classes in life skills, parenting, budgeting, GED tutoring, counseling and case management.

ForKids began operating the family shelter in Suffolk in 2008 when the Center for Hope and New Beginnings closed.

For more information about ForKids, please visit or call (757) 622-6400.

Media Contact:
Leila Rice
(757)622-6400 x135

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ForKids Supporter in Distinction Magazine

Jerry Linn

The Power of Giving

Long time ForKids supporter, Jerry Linn was recognized in Distinction Magazine this week. Linn has been hosting Spaghetti dinners to benefit ForKids since we first opened Haven House over 22 years ago. Click the picture to see Jerry on page 92 and 95 of Distinction Magazine.

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New ForKids Newsletter

Summer Newsletter

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ForKids Video

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ForKids in the Suffolk News Herald

Pictured above are members of the North Suffolk Rotary Club; students from the Pruden Center; their instructor; Corey McCray, director of the Pruden Center; Darren Cochran, manager of the Stateline Builders on Holland Road and two ForKids employees. Members of the North Suffolk Rotrary Club, students from the Pruden Center and Cochran worked to install the shed behind them at the Suffolk ForKids shelter in Suffolk on Thursday.

Joint effort helps ForKids

Published 9:46pm Thursday, March 24, 2011

A desire to provide community service and some on-the-job experience for vocational students came together on Thursday, when a new storage shed was delivered to the ForKids homeless shelter near downtown.

The North Suffolk Rotary Club, the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology and Darren Cochran, manager of the Stateline Builders on Holland Road worked together to provide and place a storage shed at the Suffolk ForKids location.

The students and Rotarians also will be doing trim work on the ForKids building in the near future.

“It gives us a new space to be able to store items we didn’t think we had room for,” Emily Thompson, adult case manager assistant with ForKids, said of the new storage building. “That’s huge for us.”

The Rotary Club decided to purchase the shed, which had been built by students at the Pruden Center, after learning that the shelter was in need of a new one. An old storage building the shelter has on site is leaking, and there wasn’t enough room for storage, said Terri Morris, the shelter’s children’s case manager.

“I had an opportunity to see how needful some of these young people are,” Rotarian Jim Dunne said after helping to unload the shed at its new home.

The Rotary Club has worked with ForKids on a few painting and general repair projects. Those experiences showed Rotarians there was need for even more help.

“That’s what Rotary is all about. It makes you feel good,” said Tom Anderson, liaison between the Rotary Club and ForKids. “They know if they need something to call us.”

When the Rotary Club discovered the shelter needed a shed and trim work, members began to consider where they could purchase the shed, how they could transport and place it and how they could help with the trim work.

Rotarian Bill Cary, who is president of the Pruden Center Foundation, learned that a shed built by Pruden construction students was available for $1,300. He and instructor John Thompson devised a plan to deliver and place the shed and to give students some on-the-job experience doing trim work at the shelter.

“I am always interested in doing community projects,” Thompson said. “We view it as a great community project. Our main objective is to give students experience, but if we can kill two birds with one stone, that’s great.”

After ForKids representatives chose a site for the shed, Pruden students set up cement blocks and made level the area where it would be placed.

Cochran transported the shed from the Pruden Center to the ForKids location at no charge.

“I think it’s pretty good, because it’s for the homeless shelter and it gives us good experience too, doing stuff for good,” said Kyle Wood, one of the students at the Pruden center who helped to set up the new shed.

“It feels good to have local support to help make space within the Suffolk House,” Emily Thompson said. “Thank you to the Rotary Club and Pruden Center.”

The shelter hopes to use the storage space to house birthday items, excess toys, household items, residents’ belongings and more.

“Now there’s more storage. There’s a place for the residents’ belongings,” Morris said.

“Now they can rest a little easier, knowing their stuff is in a nice new shed.”

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Art Auction and Dance Benefit


New ForKids Events

10th Anniversary ForKids Children’s Art Auction & Casino Night
April 2nd, 2011 | 6:00pm
Marriott Waterside
$50 in Advance
$75 at the door
More Info>>

Benefit Concert Featuring Elbert Watson
Saturday, March 19th, 2011 | 2:00pm
$12 for Adults
$7 for Children/Students/Seniors
More Info>>


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