Elizabeth A. Schimpf, 83, stuff-bear collector

November 08, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Elizabeth Ann Schimpf never met a teddy bear she didn't like -- which was proved by the scores of the cuddly, stuffed critters that adorned her Severna Park home.

Mrs. Schimpf, 83, who died Nov. 1 of heart failure at her home, had more than 400 teddy bears, some in nearly every room of the house. She had brown ones and white ones. Somber ones and happy ones. Little ones, big ones and really big ones.

"Let's put it this way," said her husband, Robert E. Schimpf, whom she married in 1959, "I'm 5 foot 7, and there are bears here that are bigger than me."

Mrs. Schimpf had collected teddy bears for 30 years, shopping for them every couple of months in toy shops and "bear shops" in Pennsylvania and Virginia, where "bear artists" would design and make them for her, her husband said. Some cost more than $1,000.

"She also collected dolls, but that collection was not nearly as large as her bears," he said.

She bought her first teddy bear in the mid-1960s. She and her husband saw a 2 1/2 -foot-tall Winnie the Pooh bear hanging from a display at a Sears store, and she had to have it.

"I asked how much it cost and was told it was a promotional item and not for sale," Mr. Schimpf said. "I kept going back and asking about it, and they were finally able to sell it to me."

When they bought it, the saleswoman said she didn't have a bag large enough to cover the bear and feared the Schimpfs might be embarrassed carrying it to their car.

"I said, 'It doesn't bother me if it doesn't bother you,' and just took it out," Mr. Schimpf said.

Teddy bears line the walls and beds of their ranch-style house.

"They're sitting all over the place," her husband said. "At night, I take them off the bed and put them in the living room. They go back in the bedroom in the morning."

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., the former Elizabeth Ann Mesmer attended public schools and received a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Buffalo and a master's degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in the early 1970s.

She taught in the Buffalo public school system and was later a ceramics instructor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

She moved to Pasadena in 1960 and to Severna Park in 1966. She was an art teacher at Glen Burnie High School from 1961 to 1980 and specialized in teaching painting, drawing and sculpting.

"She was a confident and concerned teacher," said Julie Davenport, a former colleague. "She was very creative and seemed to always enjoy what she was doing."

No services are planned.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a sister, Joan Johnson of Stony Brook, N.Y.

Donations may be made to the Anne Arundel County Division of the American Heart Association, 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 360, Hanover 21076.

Pub Date: 11/08/98

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