Iantha Augusta Lake, 83, city educator who wrote poetry, was world traveler

April 08, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Iantha Augusta Lake, a retired Baltimore public school educator and poet who proved a powerful influence in the lives of her three daughters, died Monday of congestive heart failure at Biddy Assisted Living in Columbia. She was 83.

Mrs. Lake, who formerly lived in the Hanover Square Apartments, placed a heavy emphasis on education and was proud that all her daughters earned doctorates.

"She always believed that an education was the key to a fulfilling life," said a daughter, Mabel Lake Murray of Randallstown, a retired Carroll County educator on the staff of Sojourner-Douglass College.

Born Iantha Augusta Alexander in Baltimore, Mrs. Lake was reared by relatives after the death of her mother. She attended city public schools and graduated in 1935 from Frederick Douglass High School's evening division.

She earned a diploma from the Evening Vocational School in dressmaking and began working as a seamstress, making clothes in her home for her daughters and neighborhood children. Mrs. Lake lived for years at McCulloh Homes and raised her family there.

"She made all of our clothes, and we'd bounce down the streets dressed in matching starched dresses. People always said she could make three perfect dresses out of one potato sack," said Mrs. Murray.

In the 1950s, Mrs. Lake attended the National Recreation Association Training Institute in Washington and later worked for the city Department of Recreation and Parks, managing recreation centers. But a desire to teach led Mrs. Lake to earn her bachelor's degree from Coppin State College in 1973 and become certified to teach.

She had begun teaching elementary school pupils at Park Heights Elementary School in 1968 and later taught at the old Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, from which she retired in 1983.

Standing 4 feet, 11 inches, Mrs. Lake could be a formidable presence. "She was a feisty and determined little lady. When she set her lips, that was it. You knew you were in trouble, or about to be," Mrs. Murray said fondly.

Jannette Lake Dates of Mount Washington, dean of Howard University's School of Communication, recalled a weekly ritual when she and her sisters were growing up. "Every Saturday morning, she'd walk us down to the Enoch Pratt Library on Cathedral Street, and in we'd go through the children's entrance," said Mrs. Dates.

"Before we were 5 years old, she told us we were going to college to be teachers. She'd lived through the Depression and remembered that teachers worked, and it was a job that represented security," she said.

For years, Mrs. Lake enjoyed writing poetry, sitting at a table in her home and carefully typing on a black Remington typewriter. She later bound and presented the poetry to her children.

In her poem, "Eyeglasses," she wrote:

Those things annoy me terribly,

And others too might agree.

We must adjust to them though,

If we really want to see.

Mrs. Lake was also an avid world traveler.

Her marriage to Moses Lake ended in divorce.

A memorial service was held yesterday.

In addition to her daughters, she is survived by another daughter, Iantha Lake Tucker of Columbia; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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