Stephen M. Eller

City pub­lic schools so­cial stud­ies de­part­ment chief was also a long­time camp di­rec­tor and a wide-trav­el­ing ge­neal­o­gist

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

Stephen M. Eller, an ed­u­ca­tor and so­cial stud­ies de­part­ment head who or­ga­nized Bal­ti­more pub­lic schools’ first Holo­caust cur­ricu­lum, died of Parkin­son’s dis­ease Nov. 17 at Mil­ford Manor Nurs­ing and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter in Pikesville. He was 73. “Steve was com­pli­cated,” said Bar­bara Hoff­man, his sis­ter-in-law, who lives in Ch­eswolde. “He was a men­tor to chil­dren and af­fected thou­sands of their lives. He was a tremen­dous mu­si­cian. He played both gui­tar and banjo and had a beau­ti­ful singing voice.”

“He was a Re­nais­sance man who had a knowl­edge of so many things,” she said. “He had both skills and bril­liance.”

The son of Louis Eller, a Glenn L. Martin Co. avi­a­tion me­chanic, and Eve­lyn Eller, an Army Corps of En­gi­neers ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, Stephen Martin Eller was born in Bal­ti­more and spent his early years re­sid­ing near Pat­ter­son Park.

He later moved with his fam­ily to Boar­man Av­enue in North­west Bal­ti­more.

A 1959 grad­u­ate of City Col­lege, Mr. Eller earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 1963 from the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity. He also held a mas­ter’s de­gree in teach­ing from In­di­ana Univer­sity and a mas­ter’s de­gree in so­cial work from the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

Mr. Eller be­gan his three­decade teach­ing ca­reer in 1964 at Ed­mond­son High School. He also was so­cial stud­ies de­part­ment chair­man and held teach­ing as­sign­ments at Roland Park Ju­nior High School and Pim­lico Ju­nior High School.

While teach­ing at Wal­brook Se­nior High School, he or­ga­nized the first Holo­caust cur­ricu­lum for city schools. At the time of his retirement in 1994, he was teach­ing at Har­bor City High School.

Mr. Eller had a sec­ond ca­reer, serv­ing 37 years as camp di­rec­tor for Beth Tfiloh Day Camp. There he worked tire­lessly to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where chil­dren could grow, fam­ily mem­bers said. He retired as camp di­rec­tor in 2007.

He also ad­vo­cated for the de­vel­op­ment of camp­ing leg­is­la­tion in Mary­land with the Youth Camp Safety Law, which stressed the safety of chil­dren at­tend­ing camp.

“He drafted that leg­is­la­tion,” said Ms. Hoff­man, who served in the state Sen­ate from 1983 un­til 2002.

He was also an ac­tive mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Camp­ing As­so­ci­a­tion.

A lover of tech­nol­ogy, Mr. Eller in­tro­duced com­put­ers to the camp set­ting and made them a key part of camp ac­tiv­i­ties.

This in­ter­est was en­gen­dered at an early age. When he was 7, he be­came fix­ated with sci­ence fic­tion — though it wasn’t un­til 1978 that he pur­chased his first mi­cro­com­puter.

“I knew com­put­ers would be big ever since I was in the sec­ond grade. I had been con­vinced through fic­tion that com­put­ers were the an­swer,” he told The Bal­ti­more Sun in a 1984 in­ter­view. “I re­ally had been wait­ing my whole life.”

He worked as a part-time com­puter sales­man and was an advocate of peo­ple telecom­mut­ing to their jobs.

“Each year, there is such a change in peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes to­ward com­put­ers. Ayear ago they were be­ing bought by hob­by­ists. Now you have peo­ple buy­ing them who a year ago would never have con­sid­ered it,” he said in the in­ter­view. “They are find­ing them use­ful, not some­thing strange.” He was a con­firmed ge­neal­o­gist and a cam­per. Mr. Eller and his wife of 41 years, the for­mer Sheila Marks, a speech pathol­o­gist, trav­eled with their two sons to all 50 states, pri­mar­ily in a mo­tor home.

“He vis­ited Salt Lake City, where he ex­am­ined the Mor­mon ge­nealog­i­cal records. And in the first years of our mar­riage, we spent week­ends troop­ing through grave­yards and mak­ing tomb­stone rub­bings,” Ms. Eller said.

“Wher­ever we went, he al­ways checked out lo­cal phone books looking for pos­si­ble fam­ily mem­bers,” she said.

“It’s hard do­ing Jewish ge­neal­ogy, be­cause af­ter one gen­er­a­tion, names are of­ten changed,” Ms. Hoff­man said.

Mr. Eller was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s dis­ease nearly 30 years ago. His sis­ter-in­law noted that even as his health failed, Mr. Eller and his wife main­tained their life­long love.

“My sis­ter was 14 when she met Steve, who was15,” Ms. Hoff­man re­called. “For the last three-and-a-half years, he was in a nurs­ing home, and Sheila would go ev­ery day to see Steve. Theirs was a love for the ages.”

Mr. Eller was a mem­ber of Beth Tfiloh Con­gre­ga­tion.

Funeral ser­vices were held Sun­day at Sol Levin­son & Bros. in Pikesville.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, he is sur­vived by two sons, Brian Eller of Bal­ti­more and Jonathan Eller of Reis­ter­stown; and a sis­ter, Bar­bara Eller Pos­ner of Elkridge. From his youth, Stephen M. Eller was en­thu­si­as­tic about tech­nol­ogy and com­put­ers.

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