Helen Schneider Duvall, 89, Baltimore schoolteacher

May 05, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Helen Schneider Duvall, a city schoolteacher who as "a confidante" patiently guided hundreds of youngsters through math and reading drills for 45 years, died Sunday of Alzheimer's disease at Cromwell Center in Towson.

Mrs. Duvall, 89, who lived in the same Brooklyn rowhouse for 60 years, also baked elaborately adorned wedding cakes and was so accomplished as a seamstress that she once had her own tailoring television show.

"She had a lot of interests and anything she got involved in, she went all the way. No half way," said daughter Suzanne Williams of Baltimore. "She was good at what she did."

Mrs. Duvall's teaching career began in 1930, when she taught second-graders at several schools before she joined the faculty of the old school No. 244, a military barracks-style facility in Brooklyn, in about the mid-1930s. She taught there until it was torn down in the early 1960s.

She later taught second grade and kindergarten at Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Locust Point until she retired in 1975.

As a teacher, she is remembered as patient and having the students' best interests at heart.

"She seemed to be able to put herself on the students' level to make them comfortable and want to learn," said Joy Harrington of Baltimore, a former student who kept in touch with Mrs. Duvall over the years. "She definitely was a confidante, someone they trusted."

Relatives and former students said Mrs. Duvall got the maximum performance from her students because "they all knew she loved them and they performed for her," her daughter said.

A Baltimore native whose parents were of Czech decent, the former Helen Schneider graduated from the old Eastern High School in 1927 and the former Towson State Normal School in 1929. She later attended the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University.

She married Louis Duvall in 1933. He died in 1990.

Because her parents believed women should be homemakers and were against her attending school, she worked as a nanny and playground teacher to support her college education.

"She had to fight to go to school," Mrs. Williams said. "Her parents wanted her to stay home and cook and sew. That's not what she wanted to do."

She was skilled as a seamstress and, in the late 1940s, had a local television show where she offered tailoring and sewing advice. The show lasted about a year.

"There was no one who was better suited for an instructional-type show that her. She always knew what she was doing," Ms. Harrington said.

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at McCully Funeral Home, 237 Patapsco Ave.

In addition to Mrs. Williams, she is survived by another daughter, Barbara Lois Asplen of Arnold; a son, Lou Duvall of Los Lunas, N.M.; a brother, James Schneider of Florida; 11 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 5/05/98

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