Wilhelmina E. Oldfield
Retired Howard County teacher remained in the hearts of her former students and fellow educators
Wilhelmina E. Oldfield, a retired Howard County public school educator whose career spanned more than four decades and made a lasting impression on legions of former students, died Friday at her Ellicott City home from a fall. She was 103. “I told her one time, except for my mother, she was the greatest influence on me, and I had some really good teachers,” said Mary Magdalene “Maggie” Miller, a retired banker and builder who lives in Laurel.
“You won’t find anyone who wasn’t crazy about Miss Oldfield. We all adored her,” Mrs. Miller said. “Anything you hear about her should be blown up 10 times. She was wonderfully kind.”
“She was an inspiration to everybody,” said Kim “Reds” Sullivan, also a retired Howard County elementary school teacher who taught for 32 years. “She always put herself second and others first, and cared and showed interest in other folks.
“She lived her life for others and believed in her students,” she said.
The daughter of Walter Oldfield, a pumpmaker, and Mary E. Kerger Oldfield, a homemaker, Wilhelmina Elizabeth Oldfield was born and raised in Ellicott City, where she lived her entire life
1930 graduate of Ellicott City High School, she attended and graduated in 1932 from Towson State Normal School — now Towson University — where she studied education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947, then a master’s degree in education in 1950, both from the Johns Hopkins University.
She began her teaching career in 1932 at High Ridge Elementary School — a twoteacher school — where she served as a teaching principal. She taught the fourth through seventh grades until leaving two years later to join the faculty of Ellicott City Elementary School as a seventh-grade teacher.
“She was my seventh-grade homeroom teacher at Ellicott City Elementary School and she was just wonderful, She’d come out at recess and play with us,” Mrs. Miller said. “She was great at softball and even played dodge ball — even though James Ivy threw the ball so hard at her.”
Mrs. Miller said she had no memory of anyone being “chastised” in her class. “She was downright perfect.”
Frank A. Hodges of Catonsville, who had a 50-year career as a scientist working for Lockheed-Martin and Westinghouse Electric Corp., was a student in Miss Oldfield’s seventh-grade class in 1940 at Ellicott City Elementary.
“She was firm, but had a vibrant wit and a great sense of humor which made being in her class very enjoyable,” Mr. Hodges said. “Every student was important to her.”
Miss Oldfield joined the Howard County Public Schools Central Office in 1942 when she was appointed attendance officer — or county truant officer. It was a position she held until 1945.
From 1945 to 1949, she taught history to seventh- and ninth-grade students at Ellicott City High School and was also a guidance counselor. She joined the faculty of Savage Elementary School, where she again was a teacher principal until 1951.
From there, she was supervisor of elementary schools in the central office from 1951 to 1952, then returned to Ellicott City Junior High School as principal.
From 1955 until her retirement in 1975, she worked as supervisor of elementary schools at the central office.
“She was clearly an authority figure and the students respected that, and she dressed that way. Everyone respected her,” said Shirley A. Massey, a retired lawyer and Ellicott City resident who attended Ellicott City Junior High in the early1950s. “She put the student before the rules and she didn’t mind bending them. Students always came first with her.”
She was an emeritus member of the Association of Retired Howard County School personnel and the Maryland Retired School Personnel Association, and was a founding member of Alpha Beta State’s Lambda Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma.
Miss Oldfield never married, and with the passing of the years she kept up with many of her former students — whom she referred to as “my kids.”
She shared a home on Valley Road with two other schoolteachers, who eventually preceded her in death. Ms. Sullivan, whofrequently looked in on Miss Oldfield, was a first-grade student at West Friendship Elementary, one of the schools Miss Oldfield supervised, when their lifelong friendship was forged.
“I’ve known her 53 years,” she said. “She had a genuine love of life and learning.”
“Her former students would come for visits and call her ‘Wilhelmina’ but I never did. To this day she’s ‘Miss Oldfield,’” Mrs. Miller said.
“When you went to visit her, the phone was always ringing, as former students and teachers checked on her,” Ms. Massey said.
“A lot of her former students and those who never had Miss Oldfield visited her. They enjoyed keeping in contact with her all these years,” Mr. Hodges said.
In recognition of her centenarian status, then-Howard County Executive Ken Ulman declared July 17, 2013, “Wilhelmina Oldfield Day” in the county.
Miss Oldfield, who did not drink or smoke, otherwise followed no particular regimen in becoming a centenarian.
“She ate well but avoided spicy and creamy foods. She liked good home-cooked food,” Ms. Sullivan said.
She enjoyed visiting the Dutch Country of Lancaster County, Pa., and was fond of dining out, Ms. Sullivan said.
She was a lifelong communicant of St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, 3755 St. Paul St., Ellicott City, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today.
Miss Oldfield is survived by several nieces and nephews; and great nieces and nephews. “She lived her life for others and believed in her students,” a friend said of Wilhelmina Oldfield.