Wil­helmina E. Old­field

Re­tired Howard County teacher re­mained in the hearts of her for­mer stu­dents and fel­low ed­u­ca­tors

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Frederick N. Ras­mussen fras­mussen@balt­sun.com

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.

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