L. Raymond Townsend, 84, Baltimore County educator

October 31, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

L. Raymond Townsend, a Baltimore County public school teacher and administrator for more than 40 years, died yesterday of heart failure at Charlestown Retirement Center in Catonsville. He was 84.

Mr. Townsend was the father-in-law of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and lived in Timonium for 40 years before moving to the retirement center 10 years ago.

Known to friends as Razor -- "He always said, 'They call me Razor because I'm so sharp,' " recalled his son David Townsend of Towson -- Mr. Townsend worked at seven elementary schools from 1932 to 1973.

"He really loved children," his son said. "He had a good rapport with children, especially the ones with learning and emotional difficulties."

Among the schools at which Mr. Townsend taught were Chase, Baynesville, Cockeysville, Pot Springs and Padonia elementary schools. His educational philosophy was expressed on a sign near a large philodendron he grew in the lobby of Padonia Elementary:

"This plant grew from a tiny shoot, with care and steady encouragement. It was trained but not confined. It has thrived by taking its own course."

A tall, slender man with a quick wit, Mr. Townsend thoroughly enjoyed teaching and knew his responsibility to education. But he also had fun in the schoolhouse.

He often recited comic verse during PTA and alumni meetings, and was known to reveal professional secrets, such as how teachers would pass a pair of scissors from class to class when county school supervisors were spotted as a warning to "look sharp," his son said.

Mr. Townsend could also blow an incredibly loud, piercing whistle that he made when students were unruly. "It was just a blast," his son said. "It stopped everything."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Townsend moved to Carney as a `D teen-ager and graduated from Towson High School in 1930 and the former Maryland State Normal School (now Towson University) in 1932.

He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in the 1940s and a master's of education degree from Loyola College in 1953.

His teaching career began in a two-room Baynesville Elementary schoolhouse. He'd often have 60 or more students to a class, but each was treated as an individual and offered his full attention.

"He was a patient man who devoted himself to their learning," said Clare Wellington, a former student. "His total efforts were to make sure they were as smart as they could be."

A survivor of infantile polio, Mr. Townsend walked with the aid of braces until he was 9. The illness gave him a deep sense of compassion for struggling children. While teaching low-income children at Cockeysville Elementary School, he would provide Christmas and Easter baskets for the youths.

His disease worsened in later years and left him with a withered arm, but a determined sense of independence. He refused to use a handicapped license tag for his car, arguing that others needed it more.

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in the chapel at Charlestown Retirement Center, 711 Maiden Choice Lane.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, the former Dolores Fahey, whom he married in 1935; another son, Larry Townsend of Lutherville; and four grandchildren.

Donations may be made to a scholarship fund for student employees at Charlestown Retirement Community, 715 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville 21228.

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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