F. Lynn Mayer, a retired director of high school curriculum for Baltimore County public schools, died yesterday from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 62.
The longtime Sykesville resident began his teaching career in 1960 at Sykesville High School and later became a social studies teacher and department chairman at Overlea High School.
In the 1970s, he was promoted to social studies department chairman at Randallstown High School and later was assistant principal at Pine Grove Junior High School and principal of Deer Park Junior High School.
From 1978 until 1989, when he became Baltimore County's director of high school curriculum, he was principal of Catonsville High School. He retired in 1996.
Later that year, he joined the faculty of Towson Catholic High School. He taught history until he retired last year because of declining health.
An engaging and enthusiastic teacher, Mr. Mayer was best known for counseling his students to expand their horizons and outlook, and, if possible, travel abroad.
"Do this while you are young," he'd tell them.
"He loved learning," said his wife of 38 years, the former Brenda Stevens. "He felt that travel [abroad] put you in touch with your roots. He put a high value on learning new cultures, making new friends and learning history as the world gets smaller."
"He was so smart, a true intellectual," said Keith Harmeyer, principal of Loch Raven High School, who was Mr. Mayer's assistant principal at Catonsville High School.
"He had been an art history major and, no matter how busy he was as principal, wanted to get into the classroom to share his knowledge. He truly could talk about anything."
In 1974, Pine Grove Junior High Principal Edmund L. Mitzel chose Mr. Mayer to be an assistant principal at Pine Grove.
"I selected him because of his sincerity and caring for the young people under his charge," Mr. Mitzel said yesterday. "He was an extremely sensitive individual who tried to help everyone he came in contact with. He really was a super human being."
In 1997, Mr. Mayer was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Despite having to use a walker and later a wheelchair, he refused to quit teaching.
"It used to take him a great deal of time to get to his third-floor classroom, but the students would help him and carry his books," said Mrs. Mayer.
At the end of the school year, Mr. Mayer was determined to join 15 of his students in a two-week exchange program with a school in the northern Italian town of Salo.
From his wheelchair and with the assistance of family members and students, Mr. Mayer toured the Uffizi gallery in Florence, explaining Renaissance art and pointing out the beauty and significance of the works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and in Botticelli's "Birth of Venus."
Born in Newark, N.J., Mr. Mayer was the son and grandson of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus workers, and happily recalled his father bringing home a one-eyed camel, said family members.
As a youth, he traveled with the circus. He graduated in 1954 from Bel Air High School and received his bachelor's degree in 1958 from Western Maryland College, a master's degree in education in 1963 and a master's degree in liberal arts in 1966, both from the Johns Hopkins University.
He joined the Army in 1958, and stayed in the Army Reserve after his active duty tour. He was discharged from the Reserve in 1968 with the rank of captain.
Mr. Mayer remained a lifelong circus buff and, whenever the Ringling circus played Baltimore, he took friends and family backstage to meet the clowns he knew.
He enjoyed gardening and attending lacrosse and football games.
He was a member of Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church, Route 26, Sykesville, where services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Mr. Mayer also is survived by three sons, Kevin A. Mayer of Elkridge and S. Jeffrey Mayer and Stephen A. Mayer, both of Federal Hill; and two grandsons.