Honoring a mentor, mother, wife

April 07, 2001|By Gregory Kane

I'M STANDING outside the main office door at Carver Vocational-Technical High School in Baltimore looking at the plaque.

It's done up in a blue metal plate -- Carver blue, the school color, which is about the same shade as Colts blue -- on a brown wooden platform.

"Carver Vocational-Technical High School Hall of Fame," it reads. "Barbara Kane Noland -- 2000. For Outstanding Achievement."

I stood there yesterday and looked at the plaque again -- a year to the day afterCarver officials put it there. I smiled with pride, as I'm sure I did last April 7, not that I remember much of it.

I'd been chronically sick for more than one month. On March 7, 2000, I was diagnosed -- misdiagnosed, it turned out later -- with pneumonia. What I had was congestive heart failure and a buildup of fluids around the lungs. My nights were spent coughing, not sleeping. By the time the school week of April 3 through April 7 rolled around, I was a wreck -- exhausted, emaciated, barely able to walk, much less make it down to Carver.

"You'll never make that induction ceremony," my wife cautioned.

"I'm going," I answered. If somebody had to drag me to and from, I was going. If I had to crawl on my hands and knees, I was going. If it killed me, I was going.

How long had it been since Carole Todd, a Carver guidance counselor, had written to me that my oldest sister, Barbara Kane Noland of the Class of 1966 (she died in January 1996), would be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame? It must have been months. I had sent Todd the requisite biographical information, along with a photograph. Barbara's only daughter, Dia Noland, would read the induction presentation. My mother, my sister Margaret, brother Michael, and Barbara's son and widowed husband Joseph Noland Jr. and Sr. would be there. Was I going to miss this because of illness? I think not.

Dia's tribute to her mother was beautiful. She told of Barbara's work at the Social Security Administration and with a youth choir at Lewin United Methodist Church. Most of all, she spoke of Barbara's work as a mom, of how she instilled values in her. Dia admitted that she, like most teens, bristled when Barbara and Joe prevented her from doing certain things before she was 20. She realized then, in April 2000, with two kids of her own, how her parents' decisions were for her good. Funny how fast whippersnappers wise up when they have kids.

I listened to all that in a kind of haze. I could barely walk to the auditorium and back to the reception room. I looked so awful my sister Margaret almost panicked. Mom and Mike were equally concerned. So were some Carver staff members.

"You don't look good," Todd told me.

"My dear counselor, you don't know the half of it," I wanted to say. I didn't even have the strength to mutter that.

Nor could I remember who else was inducted in 2000. That's one reason I returned in 2001 -- to beam with pride again at my sister's Hall of Fame plaque and to continue a tradition that's in its third year now. I'm an alumnus of City College, but with my dear departed big sis' admission into Carver's Hall of Fame, I'm now sort of an alumnus-in-law at the school.

There were five Carver Hall of Fame inductees for 2001. Doretha Burch graduated in 1956 and Betty Shaw Redd in 1957. Both were in Carver's cosmetology program and went to work for Rose Marie's House of Beauty, one of the more prominent salons of its day. By 1964, the pair had opened Byrd and Betty's Beauty Salon on North Avenue. It still exists.

Darryl Hines of the Class of 1969 is a special agent for the Federal Aviation Administration, Nelson Taylor of the Class of 1958 is a commercial artist whose work can be seen in banks, schools, churches and government offices. Leroy Johnson, Class of 1968, has an electronics business, selling televisions, stereos, and video and surveillance equipment. He also invented a voice-activated camera system that can be hidden in smoke detectors. Johnson told the students to keep in mind that he comes from the same working-class West Baltimore neighborhood whence most of them hail, and he's on his way to making his first million dollars.

It's usually the alumni from City, Poly and Western who get the ink. Carver's annual Hall of Fame ceremony shows that alumni of other city schools -- especially those educated in an era when it was common for the majority of parents and children to value education -- have their stories to tell. Some, like the 2001 Carver inductees, can motivate and inspire.

And others can just make a younger brother who misses his big sister so much glow with pride.

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